Advent is coming! Advent is coming! As my friend Evan Garner reminds us, Advent is a season in which the pull of the culture and the pull of the Church are seemingly at odds with one another. Christmas music has been playing on the radio for two weeks already and trees have been for sale in the Wal*Mart Christmas Shoppe since before Halloween. The culture is waiting for Christmas and all the material gains with which this annual feast is now associated. On the other hand, the Church, though her lessons and her [dreadful] Advent music is inviting us not to wait for the coming of the Christ child on Christmas Day, but rather for his Second Advent, when he will come with power and great glory to judge the quick and the dead.
For most of us, normal, everyday followers of Jesus, this season drips with the paradoxes of Advent. We attend Christmas parties and then head home to light an Advent wreath and read from our Advent devotional. In the midst of waiting to sing Joy to the World by candlelight at midnight “mass,” we hear the words of the prophet who call us to repentance and preparation for the day of judgment. We struggle with how to wait with eager expectation of both events when they seem to diametrically opposed. As I’ve once again pondered my general uneasiness with Advent, I’ve found myself drawn toward Jesus’ parable of the eschaton from Mark 13.
“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.”
“Each with his [or her] work.” For me, that is what this season of waiting is all about. It isn’t about sitting around staring at my iPhone. It isn’t about pounding Red Bulls panicking that Jesus might show up unannounced. It isn’t about fear of being left behind. It is about being about the work of the Kingdom. Each of us has been assigned a task, our vocation and calling, and equipped with gifts by the Holy Spirit to be about our work. In the meantime, between the First and Second Advents, we are to be busy doing that work, building the kingdom, freeing the enslaved, and uniting those who have been divided.