"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake-- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."
Advent, that season of opposites, ends with the Holy Family going to Bethlehem in silent obscurity. It begins, however, with the shriek of the rooster, the disorienting clang of the alarm clock, the crash of a break-in.
Jesus’ words to his disciples in today’s Gospel lesson require eternal vigilance from us. There is never a good time to let our guard down, to get comfy or complacent.
Christianity is never a faith or a practice of avoidance: it is always a direct encounter with God, with the neighbor, with the reality of our discipleship. Falling asleep, in any of its many forms in the spiritual life, is another word for death. As C.S. Lewis aptly noted, we are ever advancing to heaven or hell. For the Christian, wakefulness is the pilgrimage to heaven: spiritual sleep is the coasting into alienation from God, the other, and self.
May this be an Advent of new wakefulness for us all.
Collect for Advent Sunday
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.