Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Probably if I asked what are the first words of the Bible, someone would get it right, even if it was just a lucky guess.  The Bible starts with the Book of Genesis and the words, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth.”  Now if the next question was what are the last words of the Bible I bet there would be a lot of silence.  The last book of the Bible is the Book of Revelation and the last words are, “Come, Lord Jesus!”  Between In the beginning and Come Lord Jesus is the whole of salvation history, the entire story of our God injecting Himself into time and history.  And it is our story, a story of waiting, watching and hoping.

Waiting.  Advent is a four week period to learn what it is like to wait for the coming of Christ.  The question for us is how are we to wait?  I always think of the bumper sticker that said, “Jesus is coming soon.  Look busy!”  Look busy, that would be an easy message to preach on during Advent.  We are busy, and we will get even busier as Christmas approaches.  Shopping, parties, making the Christmas newsletter, sending out cards.  We are very good at “busy.”

But that is not what Jesus had in mind in today’s Gospel.  He makes it very clear how we are to wait.  In only 5 verses, four times Jesus says, “Be watchful! Be alert!”  What does it mean to be watchful, alert, awake?  Think about our opening prayer.  So often we don’t pay attention to it but it is meant to gather all of our thoughts and prayers at the start of the Mass and give us the theme of the entire liturgy.  Listen:  Grant your faithful, we pray, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming.  Run forth:  being alert, awake means being active, not passive.  It involves action.  We don’t just sit back and wait for the Lord.  We are called to actively bring about the Kingdom of God.  How to start?  Prayer can help us stay awake and alert.  In fact, since today is the liturgical New Year, that could be our New Year’s Advent resolution - to begin each day with a short prayer.  It could simply be “thank you God for bringing us safely through the night and be with us throughout this day so that all we do may make Your kingdom real here and now.”  We could put on our refrigerator the word PUSH to remind us to Pray Until Something Happens.  PUSH.

Watching.  To watch means to look for something or someone.  We always watch with great anticipation the arrival of children or grandchildren at the holidays.  How do we watch?  By making sure everything is ready for their arrival.  Clean sheets on the beds, plenty of snacks on the shelves and beer in the refrigerator.  Watching involves getting ready.  How do we get ready for Christ’s arrival?  We heard in last week’s Gospel of the final judgment exactly how we will be judged and that is a good way to prepare for Christ.  Feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, the lonely.  Since that is how we will be judged, this would be a good time to start preparing. 

Finally, hope.  Hope looks to the future but always with an eye on the past.  Our hope for what God will do for us is based on what God has done for us.  The biblical message is God has always, regardless of how we have responded, cared for us, sought us out, welcomed us back.   We can trust God; He is consistent.  As we contemplate all that God has done in the past, we are able to trust that he will come again.  Into our private dilemmas and into our suffering world. 

From the beginning of creation we are a people called to wait and watch in joyful hopeCome, Lord Jesus!