If you are looking for something happy and Christmasy this first Sunday of Advent, don’t read the gospel text for this week. In each of the three years of the lectionary cycle, the first week of Advent is given to apocalyptic texts. This kind of literature was common in Jewish and Christian writings in the centuries around the life of Jesus (see Revelation, for example), but we don’t really have close comparisons to apocalyptic literature in modern writing. The genre is highly metaphorical, so be wary of interpretations that attempt to draw predictions of events or even a “rapture” from this and similar texts. Something we’d have in common with those interpretations, though, is that this passage is a warning—a warning against complacency.
‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’ [from Matthew 24]
If we aren’t watchful, if we aren’t paying attention, we will be taken by surprise when something bad happens.
This doesn’t mean we can anticipate every difficult event—accident, illness, loss, financial or political upheaval. However, being watchful means being ready, awake, prepared.
Paying attention is one of the main Advent themes.
- Pay attention to the people closest to you. How will you give and receive love in those relationships?
- Pay attention to the people you encounter. How might your interactions aim toward being holy moments?
- Pay attention to the people least like you. This may be more difficult, but how will you learn from them?
- Pay attention to God and to what God is doing in the world. How can you awaken your senses to notice goodness and peace?
- Pay attention to yourself. Self-awareness is highly underrated. How will you be awake to your body, soul, spirit, and values during Advent? How will that self-awareness translate into how you spend your time?
We never know what’s going to happen next, but faithful watching can help us be prepared for both the good and the bad, the delightful and the challenging.
Pay attention. And be ready.
© 2016 Melissa Bane Sevier