Rev. Megan Huston
November 30, 2014

Mark 13:35-37
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.

One of the most interesting parts of being a youth minister is that you also get the privilege of being the alarm clock. Whether it is a lock in, a mission trip, or church camp, there are ample opportunities to wake up sleepy teenagers and creativity is key. Some ministers prefer to be as loud as possible, thereby encouraging youth to get up or else they will have to hear whatever outrageous noise, ie. Clanging pots, out of tune singing, etc. There is a legend of one desperate youth minister pouring just a tad of ice water on a youth who refused to get up. My approach was typically a middle of the road one, playing a song most the kids knew pretty loudly, often something from the Lion King or Frozen. The boys usually got up pretty quickly so as not to have to hear the entire song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” Nevertheless youth ministry is often about the business of waking people up.

The author of Mark apparently has this trait in common with youth ministers, trying his best to wake his readers up. The scripture that I plucked out for this week is seated in the context of some apocalyptic literature, concerning the time of Christ’s second coming. Mark supposes two different theories are possible- that Christ’s second coming will be right away, or that it would be at the culmination of human history, at the end of time.

Or, maybe, Mark is proposing it is neither. What if the Advent of Christ already came in the form of his death and resurrection and all of our waking up and our waiting should be shaped by that?

There is a lot that I do not know about the end times. And the best that I can interpret scriptures about them is that God is faithful and shows up for us in our darkest hours. What I do feel certain of is that in the words of Isaiah that the heavens are torn open and God is coming down to be among us all the time.

Advent is a season that encourages us to wait faithfully. It teaches us something about patience, about awareness, about resisting the immediate gratification that is so pervasive in our culture. But often I think our waiting is soured by the monotonous routine of going through Advent motions while being surrounded by Christmas cheer. So this year, rather than focusing on simply the act of waiting that will lead us up to the Christmas Eve lighting of the Christ candle, which we know will happen around 7pm on December 24th, I thought we might explore the question- what are you waiting for?

It seems in life we are constantly waiting… Waiting for the right job, waiting on the perfect home, waiting to find the right friends, or to discern the answer to some fate-filled question. We are often waiting, but are we waiting on things that matter?

Martin Copenhaver said, "Those who lived before the birth of Jesus did not know the day or the hour of his arrival so they needed to live in a continual state of watchfulness."

Advent is a season of waiting, but often we find ourselves just going through the same old routine, waiting for Christmas instead of anticipating Emmanuel, God with us!

But this year, I have this grand idea that it could be different. That something might jolt us awake & help us to see that Christ is not just coming on December 24th but that he is always coming.

I experienced our Thanksgiving lunch for the first time this year as I watched you all serve hundreds of people who needed a warm meal on Thursday. I was told that while we had fewer deliveries that we had more people eating in the church. I think that part of the reason was because it was so bitterly cold, but I also wonder if it had to do with our Room In the Inn ministry, because at least half of the men who stayed with us two weeks ago came and ate a meal at the church on Thursday. I was most excited about this because these guys are no longer strangers on the street, but they are a part of our church family, as is anyone who walks through our church doors if only one time, they are a part of this community.

You know our board cast vision about a year ago that we would not just address the symptoms of poverty but start addressing the root causes, and I think getting to know people is a really good start.

What if the art of watchful waiting actually challenges us to meet God in the “god-forsaken places” where God shows up? Like around a table with people who make us feel uncomfortable because of how much we have. Or delivering meals to those who can’t provide for themselves. Maybe God shows up when we do crazy things like baking homemade cookies for our Christmas baskets, I don’t know if it is possible, but we need to bake about 800 cookies.

Or maybe active waiting forces us to face our own demons that we have been waiting to really address. Like getting the help we need. Or calling the family member who hurt us so deeply.

Or maybe watchful waiting asks us to challenge ourselves to stop waiting for some outside thing to make us happy. Maybe it challenges us to consider how much is enough and when are we going to stop yearning for more?

I just have this crazy idea that this year could be different. And I guess that is what Advent means to me. It is not the same old thing, but it is an opportunity to consider what does it mean that God is willing to come down from some far away heaven and dine with us? And how often is God actually waiting on us but we just have something more important to do?

So what if this year Christmas was different? What if as we waited in never-ending traffic jams on Scottsville Road we prayed for peace for all people who feel stuck? What if we shopped with intentionality, paying attention to how we are investing our dollars for those we love. What if we spent as much time letting those we love know what a treasure they are in our lives? What if we really noticed the most beautifully lit house on the block & the most sparkling Christmas tree peaking through a neighbor’s window.? What if we let the magic of the season actually affect us instead of zooming through it all together?

I don’t know what needs to be different for you this Advent. But I pray that whatever it is that you are waiting for, that you might find a way to wait watchfully, intentionally, and actively. I challenge each of us to do something we normally don’t do during this time of year. Volunteer to deliver meals. Engage more deeply in this community by baking cookies for the poor. Call someone who needs to hear your voice. Explore the place within yourself that you keep covered up but that you know needs healing.

There is a lot that I don’t know about end times. But I do believe that we worship a God who is faithful. And I believe that as we become more active in our pursuit of things that are Holy that we will begin to encounter them more and more. And we may even become them for someone else. So let’s make this year different. Let’s go with God to those unexpected, even “God-forsaken” places. So… What are you waiting for?