Sunday, Nov. 27: ADVENT 1
“Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matt. 24:42)
By the time you’re mumble-mumble-years-old, like I am, “keeping awake” is not a good thing. Generally, it means you’ve had caffeine too close to bedtime (like, anytime after 2 p.m.), or you are catatonic at your computer screen, clicking through endless Pinterest images and grumbling over trollish Facebook comments. Maybe you’ve stayed up too late watching just one more DVR’ed episode of your current binge show, or maybe you’re just laying there in the dark with your eyes unblinking and your mind spinning.
At this time of year, though, I remember perfectly what it felt like to “keep awake” with excitement. When I was a kid we spent many Christmases visiting my grandparents, and my memories are so clear it’s like watching it in a movie: well after my parents had put us firmly to bed on Christmas Eve, I’d pad across the room ever-so-quietly in my footie pajamas. I’d lift aside the yellowed plastic roll-up window shade (very carefully–those things were unpredictable!), and I’d stare out at the sky, sure that if I were patient enough, and if I watched carefully enough, I would see the red glow of Rudolph’s nose coasting among the stars.
As Advent begins, we turn our attention to the coming–once again–of God’s greatest gift to us, God’s own Self, Jesus, born as one of us to show us how to live in this world. Jesus, born thousands of years ago and a world away. Jesus, born again in the heart of every believer. If our anticipation of Santa Claus once kept us awake with the promise of a new bike, a new doll, a new toy, how much more should our anticipation of the Messiah keep us awake? How much more should our eyes open wide, gazing out into the dark, sure that we will glimpse Jesus, returning to bring to birth a new season, a new earth, a new life?
Now we tell our own kids the same thing that my parents told us: “Santa can’t come until you’re asleep!” But secretly I’m glad that they keep awake, too excited to drop off easily in the days before Christmas. Hopefully some day they’ll remember what it felt like, and they’ll realize that there’s another Visitor worth waiting and watching for, who has already brought gifts beyond imagining, and whose arrival will inspire us–over and over again–to wonder, to love, and to praise.