Readings: Isaiah 64:1-9, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37
We recognize that we are in a broken world. As the days shorten, the nights get longer, and we see less and less clearly, we wait and hope for God to come.
The waiting we do, is not one of idleness. It’s a “keep awake” kind of waiting. It’s a hopeful kind of waiting. And hope is something that is not just an idle wish, but a longing and desire that includes such certainty that it moves us—it keeps us awake.
The readings for the first Sunday in Advent give us two descriptions of the keeping awake that Jesus calls us to in the gospel of Mark. The first is longing, searching, and pleading for God to come and restore. The lament in Isaiah is “Where are you, O God?! You’ve hidden yourself, and the world is all wrong. You want us to praise you and be filled with joy at your presence, at your coming, but you have hidden yourself.”
In the midst of loss, and hardship, we resonate with the lament of Isaiah—we wait for God to come and make right what we know is wrong. We wait for, long for, God’s presence when we are lonely, we wait for the sting of death to end completely, we wait for the rebuilding of lost and strained relationships, and to see our loved ones again. The dark days of winter, and the family gatherings of Christmas are, for many, reminders of the lost loved ones, the strained family relationships, loneliness and heartache I the midst of culture that says “be happy, buy many presents, it’s a joyful season.”
Lament, like in Isaiah, wakes us up to reality that the world, we, are in need of God’s presence, and the saving, restoring power of Jesus. It wakes us up to the hurt and suffering around us, and the ways we perpetuate that suffering.
Jesus says to us, keep awake. Keep awake, and see the where Christ is headed; with the ones who are hurting, with the ones who are ignored. Last week, we head Jesus declare that he was with the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and imprisoned—he was with the stranger. This week he says, Keep awake: See the ones around you who are hurting—Jesus’ presence is decidedly with the ones who are ignored:
Keep awake: your neighbor is hungry; your neighbor is cold. Christ is coming soon are you with your neighbor when he comes?
Your neighbor is trafficked and abused, alone without someone to love them. Are you fighting for your neighbor when he comes?
Your neighbor is grieving a loss, and fearing the death of a loved one. Are you proclaiming the kingdom of Christ by your presence for your neighbor?
Falling asleep is settling for the status quo. Falling asleep is letting the world be how it is, and in-so-doing, helping keep it that way. Falling asleep denies the presence of Christ, who’s kingdom is here, and who is soon to come again.
Waiting for Jesus, the waiting of advent is not an idle wait. It’s a hopeful kind of waiting. It is a waiting, and preparing in hope, that is not just an idle wish, but a longing and desire that includes such certainty of his presence now, and his coming fully, that it moves us—it keeps us awake. Whether we lament and pray, or whether we become God’s presence and voice for our neighbors, faith has kept us awake. And we pray, Lord Jesus, come and reign!