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A Reflection for the First Sunday in Advent, 2020

by Sister Jayne Erickson

Keep watch! For you don’t know the day nor the hour.

When I was a child growing up in Cloquet with my four siblings and a neighborhood full of kids, we spent most nights playing games outside. The characters in one of the games were a parent, the children, and a witch. The children were given names of the days of the week and the game started out with the parent figure saying to the children, “I’m going downtown to smoke my pipe and I won’t be back ‘til Saturday night.  Wednesday, I’m putting you in charge. KEEP WATCH AND DON’T LET THE WITCH IN!”

You can probably fill in the blanks here. Mom leaves, the witch does come, disguised (of course) as a sweet old lady who just needs “a little cup of sugar”. When Wednesday goes to the kitchen to get the sugar, the witch snatches one of the children. Mom comes home, discovers her child is missing, and scolds Wednesday because he didn’t keep watch. But, again Mom says, “I’m going downtown to smoke my pipe and I won’t be back ‘til Saturday night. Monday, I’m putting you in charge. KEEP WATCH AND DON’T LET THE WITCH IN!” This pattern continues until all the children are gone, but don’t worry, the game ends with the children being rescued (and a lot of running and screaming as in most good neighborhood games).

Now, I’m not suggesting this is what Mark’s gospel is talking about when it says, “Keep Watch!”, although it does make me think about what things might creep into my life disguised as good, sweet intentions, just “a little cup of sugar”. Do I allow my days to get filled up with so many things (even if they’re good things) that they snatch away my time alone with Jesus? Am I doing things to satisfy my own ego and build myself up or can I honestly say I’m watching and listening for what God is calling me to do and responding wholeheartedly.

Keep watch! For you don’t know the day nor the hour.

It seems each one of us has been put in charge. We’re charged with the business of carrying out God’s work and we all have a part to play. What’s my part? What’s your part? In First Corinthians, Paul says the Church has been enriched in every way, not lacking any spiritual gift…as we eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. What are those spiritual gifts that enrich our lives? Hospitality? Service? Faith? Wisdom? Prayer? Encouragement? Creativity? Leadership? Discernment? Are we using our spiritual gifts to build God’s kingdom? In Paul’s greeting to the Corinthians, he mentions Jesus Christ in almost every verse. It’s a reminder to us that God is revealed in Jesus Christ, and we are to bear witness to that truth. We’re called to reveal Christ in all that we do, in all that we say, and in all that we are. Are we watching for Christ to be revealed? More importantly, are we revealing Christ to one another and to our world? 

Let’s not be lulled into sleep by ordinary days or pandemic distancing. Jesus comes in ordinary days and in everyday encounters (even by letter or phone or Zoom). And…just as sure as we know that Jesus will come back someday, let’s remember that he also comes today in unexpected places through unexpected people and circumstances. 

Keep watch!  For you don’t know the day nor the hour.

Another game we played was called, “My Car, Your Car.” It’s quite possible my mom made this game up to pass the time while we were waiting for our cousins to come for a visit. It kept us from asking her every five minutes when they would arrive. Basically, we sat on the front steps watching the cars go by on our busy road, taking turns claiming each moving vehicle as it passed by in front of us, calling out, “My car, your car, my bicycle, your truck…ooh, my Convertible!” But the best thing about the game was anticipating the arrival of the car that carried our cousins to our home. That car signaled the end of the game and began a celebration that lasted for days! The waiting was over. We had been keeping watch with joyful anticipation and now we could rejoice with hugs and laughter and stories and the sweet assurance that we were finally together. A glorious reunion!

Oh, my Sisters…Jesus is coming! Do we wait with joyful anticipation?

In closing, I’d like to share a quote from Pastor Dirk Lange.

The revelation of Jesus Christ, that we are all waiting for in the Advent season, is an unexpected revelation. It is not waiting for another birth in a manger and not necessarily waiting for a second coming into time… This waiting is perhaps the praying and thanksgiving, the singing and the sharing that transforms our speech and knowledge, our words and expectations, into conformity with Jesus. Our community of faith… is called to see Christ coming, Christ “adventing” in its very midst, in its very heart.”

Keep watch!  For you don’t know the day nor the hour.

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“Our humanity comes to its fullest bloom in giving. We become beautiful people when we give whatever we can give: a smile, a handshake, a kiss, an embrace, a word of love, a present, a part of our life...all of our life.”
–Henri Nouwen