Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. Mk 13:33
Happy New Year! I guess… Advent is the beginning of the Church Year, the liturgical calendar, and traditionally understood as a time of preparation for Christmas. But, it’s not quite that simple, or easy.
Every store, the entire commercial world, is more than ready. Every possible medium of mass communication is saturated with messages carefully crafted to tug at our heartstrings and then at our pockets and purses, to tug money out of them. The ‘Coming One’ has already come, with the Santa Claus Parade the Saturday after Remembrance Day, and is now ruthlessly exploited to squeeze as many dollars as possible out of everyone, including those who can’t afford to spend anything, but feel compelled to do so anyhow.
So what about us? How are we feeling, and what on earth – or not – is Jesus talking about in his stern words from the Gospel? Now it’s Mark’s Gospel, which will be our main source for the coming year, during Year B of the three year lectionary (four assigned readings for each Sunday) which is our discipline in the Anglican Church of Canada, and in many other churches also, including our Full Communion partner the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Beware! Keep alert! Keep awake! Keep awake!
Yes, Advent is a time to prepare for Christmas, and the celebration of the Word made flesh in the helpless baby of Bethlehem, whose family would soon become homeless refugees, but Christmas itself, the whole Feast of twelve days, is really a time of preparation for the rest of the story. The helpless human baby will grow up, the wood of the manger will take another form as, eventually, that baby, named Y’shua (or Joshua, or Jesus) becomes the helpless man nailed to a cross. All the tinsel and shiny globes and bright lights in the world cannot make this tree beautiful. What will make it beautiful, though, is the light of God’s love shining so brightly in the suffering servant who is obedient unto death, even death on a cross, for our sake, and the sake of all.
Can we handle this, when the rest of the world – at least our part of it – is urging us into an orgy of materialism and self-idolatry? To do so, we are invited to journey together in the Spirit of the Servant Christ, in prayer, in reflection, in worship, in service, disciples together of Jesus. To make this journey of preparation for service in the Reign of God, Jesus himself invites us, strongly, urgently:
Therefore, keep awake — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” Mark 13:35-37