Scripture: Mark 13:24-37

“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 
 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Beware, keep alert;for you do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.  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.”

Stay tuned.  Man, I do not like those words! Especially these last few days.  It seems every suspenseful show we watch has ended with major cliff hanger and a “stay tuned” till next January or next February.  It’s one thing to watch the coming attractions and wait until next week, but next season just isn’t right! Patience isn’t one of my virtues.

Worse is watching a movie in a series and waiting a year or more for the next movie. Some people have waited almost 40 years for the movie coming on December 20th.  I don’t even know which number Star Wars movie it is – it’s the last one – but I’ve been watching them since high school.  

We really get caught up in those kinds of things, don’t we? It excites us and keeps people talking about what’s next, and what do you think will happen, and when will it happen?  Movies these days sell out way in advance for opening night. I admit spending many a night waiting in line to watch a new movie at midnight so I could be the first! That is not being patient. 

Even when we’ve seen the movie several times, we like to watch it again. We had our grandsons last night, and they wanted to watch a movie. I was surprised and said, “You haven’t ever seen it?” And they said, “We’ve only seen it once. Can we please watch it?”  Only once! We like to watch them over and over, don’t we?  Every year the week before Christmas, I have to get out the wrapping paper and all the presents and sit in the floor and wrap and watch White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, Love Actually, The Preacher’s Wife, and several other Christmas movies that just make it Christmas each year.  Yes, for most of them, I can tell you every bit of what’s going to happen. From some of them, I can quote a large part of the words, and from a few of them I can sing every word of every song, and I might cry through a few every single time I watch it!  It doesn’t stop me from  watching them and loving them because they make Christmas for me.

I admit that today’s Gospel passage can make me a little uncomfortable. And if the birth of Jesus is the movie, this would be the trailer!  Be awake!  Be ready!  It’s coming, and no one knows the release date of the movie, so you can’t pre-buy tickets. You’ve got to just go when it’s time!

Sometimes I think we allow ourselves to be lulled into a sense of complacency. We feel like we know the story, we know what’s going to happen. Jesus is born, grows up, dies, crucified, resurrected…start all over again!  Buy presents, go to parties, Christmas Eve service, lots of food.  Start the year over.

Or we let ourselves get into the mode of thinking of all the terrible things that are happening – there’s war, hungry people, evil, more people without jobs or homes, human trafficking, and on and on.  How are we ever going to get through this? Maybe I should just put my head under the covers until it all goes away. We lose hope.

Is Advent a past event that we need to just let go and enjoy Christmas?  Or is Advent something that is happening right here and now, alive and well?  

Advent isn’t the time we’re called to sit by patiently and wait. No, Advent is when we’re to be waiting, but waiting impatiently!  Like we wait for those movies. Counting the days like it’s a new release that we can’t wait to see.  Knowing that there is more hope in the person of Jesus.  

Wouldn’t life be amazing if we did live life alert!  Seeing the beauty around us, hearing and accepting that Jesus is calling us for amazing things. We just need to listen and hear what he’s asking us to do.  

Could we be constantly on the lookout for places that desperately call us to make known God’s forgiveness, or maybe just the right place to show God’s generosity? Might there be an opportunity just around the corner if we’re watching, an opportunity where you’re needed to show justice to an unjust world?  Maybe, just maybe, you would have the opportunity tomorrow or the day after to give in a way that would show someone who’s never had anything God’s abundance and love.

I love a commercial that’s out right now. It’s a car commercial, but a weather man is standing outside in a parka and gloves and acting like it’s 10 degrees below zero. All the people around him are in shorts, and the sun is shining, and the people in the studio are looking at him like he’s crazy. Then, all of a sudden, this wind blows in and snow is everywhere and everyone is cold except this weather guy.

What if we entered into this Advent season so ready,  already out in the fields like the shepherds ready to receive the angels message that the time has come?  Or what if we could be like the astronomers, searching the sky looking for the star that could guide them?  

When is the last time you’ve been excited about Jesus?  When was the last time you wanted Jesus to come?  Not to be over there, or up there, but to be right here!  Right here among us, really with us, ready to put us to work.  Work that might, just might, be difficult, but work that might change the world for someone else.  Work that might make a difference in this world, work that might make this world hopeful again?

Amen and amen!

Cheryl Kimble is pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.