“Be alert!” Jesus tells us as Advent opens, as if we could possibly let ourselves sleep right now. The holidays are coming. The past year and a half has been full of plot twists with little chance to rest. Staying vigilant has been standard operating procedure since the first cases of COVID-19 started making news. Frankly, we are exhausted from “being on alert.”
Jesus’ words are a caution to stay focused, to pay attention, not only to the “to do list,” to the news cycle, to the obvious events that shape the big moments in the world around us, but to notice the subtleties, the patterns of behavior, the nuances happening around you. Be alert for what God is doing in the midst of the busyness and the on-going challenges of the pandemic. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with . . . the worries of this life.”
Advent is a subtle season. Its quiet refrain offers us hope and patience in equal measure. Around us it is characterized by a frenzy of shopping and planning; but deep into the darkening evenings and cooler days, there is a silent stirring of movement and of expectation, as the things we have planted deep begin to take root, and find the light. Those small moments, the delicate actions and thoughts of Advent, open our hearts to see that faint light as it breaks through the chaos of our culture.
Advent gifts are patience, hope, anticipation. Like every perfect gift, God gives us just what we need when we need it most. In a season marked by the opposing forces of starkness and extravagance, God’s generosity appeals to us in the simplicity of God’s desires for us: to be patient, to live in hope, to anticipate the freedom that will unshackle us from oppression.
“Be alert!” God is near.
Questions to ponder
What are the gifts that you can give that meet the needs of the world?
What is the treasure in your heart you want to nurture with the coming Light?