Dear Friends in Christ,
Here we are, at the start of what the church calls Advent* and the world calls The Christmas Season. In this weekend’s Scripture readings, however, we do not encounter visions of sugarplums or the sound of sleigh bells. Instead, we hear cries of lament and suffering from the prophet Isaiah: “Oh, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” the prophet wails. And then in the Gospel reading, Jesus warns that this age is quickly coming to an end, and we are to be alert and ready. He says, “Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come. Keep awake.” (Mark 13:33, 37b)
To “keep awake” is to live with the intensity of living in the last days, while still tending to the good work God has given us. Surely you have been asked a question like, “What would you do if you knew you only had a month to live?” Your priorities would sharpen, your awareness would be heightened, you wouldn’t take so much for granted. However, living with this kind of intensity for an unknown period of time is, frankly, not possible. Gratefully, Jesus has given us more than exhortations, teachings, and warnings to help us keep our focus. By his coming into our world, by his death on the cross and triumphant resurrection, he gave us his very own life to hold onto when our faith, our trust, our hope, our own life reaches its limits and comes to an end.
Once, Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he believed the world would end tomorrow, and he responded, “I would plant a tree today.” When Jesus bids us to live awake, on the watch, he is calling us to invest in the present and trust in the future that God alone holds. So let us live awake, alert, attentive to what God is doing through Jesus Christ – the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all things. He was and is and is to come. Amen!
* P.S. The season of Advent is not only counter-cultural, but mysterious to Christians of all ages as we embrace themes such as waiting, hope, preparation, and anticipation among the “busy-ness” of this world. Concordia Publishing House has produced a 2½ minute video which serves as a lovely introduction to the season. I invite you to view it here.