Watching and Waiting
“Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:33-37).
Years ago I drove Fran, a young friend of mine, to the airport to pick up her parents who were returning from a well-deserved vacation in Europe. They had been gone for what seemed a long time, and she missed them terribly. Waiting in the airport, Fran stood on tiptoes, looking above the heads of the assembled crowd, to catch the first glimpse of her mom and dad as they came into view. She was filled with anticipation: this would be a joyful reunion. People in the same area, waiting to pick up other travelers, waited differently: some seemed bored, others looked tired, and many looked a little annoyed. The way we wait depends on what we are waiting for.
Christians wait for the promised return of Jesus. The One who came will come again. The early church lived in the expectation of the return of the Crucified and Risen One. Over the years, as his return has been delayed (from our perspective) we have grown weary; we tend to forget that we are called to be alert, watchful, and prepared for the day of his coming.
On the night before he died, Jesus assured his closest friends that, while he was about to leave them, he would return. Knowing how much they would miss him, he told them:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:1–4).
We are waiting for Jesus’ return to bring his saving work to completion and to take his beloved people home! We are waiting for the vindication of Jesus and of our faith in him as our Lord and Savior. We are waiting for the end of history. We are waiting for the victory of our God and of his Christ.
As Jesus ascended, having finished his earthly mission, his disciples watched him disappear from their sight. As they gazed upward, two angels appeared to them with a warning: “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). The angels’ message, distilled to its basic meaning was: Don’t just stand there, get to work! Do something.
The angels reminded those disciples, and remind us, that there is an appropriate way to wait. Peter tells us as much in his first letter: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray“ (1 Peter 4:7).
Jesus, in the Gospel, tells us that, while we wait, we don’t know WHEN he will arrive, but whenever it is, he will be unexpected. He could catch us off guard and asleep unless we take his warning to heart.
Until he returns, he has put us, his servants, in charge of his mission, the world. We, like the Lord himself, must bring the Good News to the ends of the earth: to the poor we are to bring the message of God’s abundant love, to the blind we are to bring sight that comes from the Light of the World, to the broken we are to bring healing, to those in bondage we are to bring liberation. We are the heralds of the Great King. The mission requires us to use both our voice and our actions. We are to share the power of Christ and of faith in him with the people we meet. Every Christian has a unique story—it is the story of how God, in Christ, has moved in our lives. Some of those stories are dramatic, others quite ordinary, but all show some aspect of the power of God to transform us.
Our words are not enough—we must follow them up with lives lived well. Peter wrote:
Therefore, with minds that are alert and filly sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming… do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13-16).
There is nothing more important than fulfilling our mission as we wait in joyful hope for the Lord’s return. We are to continue to make him known to the world—with both our lips and our lives, and bring his salvation to the ends of the earth, starting right where we are now.
God, our Father, you created the world and everything in it, making humans in your likeness to bear your image. You love everything you created, and when we sinned, you did not stop loving us.
Look for the grace of deep conversion, and for the wisdom to know when, where, and how to share the Lord’s Good News as it has been manifested in your life.
Watching and Waiting For the Lion of Judah: Advent Day by Day
Rev. Richard Hasselbach