Do you remember being a kid and waiting for you friend to come over? Especially when it was a friend who lived far enough away that a parent had to drop them off. If they were coming at a certain time you would get more and more anxious, watching the clock, thinking about how awesome it was going to be when they got there. I used to think that I heard a car in the driveway and run upstairs all excited and discover it was just a car passing by. Or sometimes I would hang out in the kitchen where I could see down the road a bit and hope that each car coming was my friend. It’s not the same anymore, between being an adult and everyone having cellphones… the closest I get to that old feeling is waiting for the UPS guy to drop off something I ordered online.
I had these memories come back to me because as we begin the Advent season the Gospel today is so focused on this idea of watching. Three times Jesus tells us to watch. “Be watchful! Be alert!”, “Watch, therefore, you do not known when the Lord of the house is coming”, “What I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” And this isn’t a passive, idle watching, this is the watching of a servant at the gate and a soldier in the night watch… or a kid watching for their friend to pull up the drive. Advent watching is part preparation and readiness but it’s also part joy and excitement. And it’s all because of what we are watching for.
So what are we watching for? Or more directly, what are you watching for, what are you waiting for? Christmas is only the start of an answer. When we think of Christmas, we normally think of our celebration of Christmas. We think of seeing our family again, we think of that spirit of laughter and giving, we think of that cozy feeling of the world slowing down for a day or two so that we can appreciate each other. That’s all wonderful and we should thank God for such a beautiful holiday, but this time of Advent is not about preparing for that. You could prepare for that in a couple of days. Advent is deeper, Advent is richer. Advent is four weeks of preparing and watching and waiting for nothing less than God present and active in our lives.
The first reading from Isaiah was meant to spark than yearning that we all have for God. “You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer… why do you let us wander… return for the sake of your servants… we are sinful… we have all withered like leaves… yet, O LORD, you are our father.” Isaiah knows to things. The first is that something is wrong in the life of Israel, that they have strayed from being God’s holy people. The second is that only God’s presence can heal them. And so Isaiah cries out in a yearning that the LORD might reveal himself and return to his servants, so that they can remember who they are and walk in his ways. Advent is our time to share in that yearning even as we know that it will be fulfilled. We miss our friend, a friend so great that he created us and spoke to us, a friend so loving that he destroyed death for us… and so we sit in joyous anxiety as we watch for his presence.
If you find it helpful I want to give you a devotional practice to try this Advent. It’s something I often give as a penance in confession for people who are just beginning to make Mass a regular part of their lives. This Advent whenever you come to church pray that God’s presence be undeniably real to you in this place. Pray with full expectation that Jesus Christ who took on human flesh won’t hesitate to put a flame in your hearts that burns with a joy. If you watch for him, you will find him.
Sign up here to have newly posted homilies sent right to your email.
Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.