But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 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!’
Advent is a time for waiting. For expecting. For reminding ourselves of the “not yet.”
Only a few were still waiting when Jesus arrived the first time. Those with eyes to see are mentioned in the story: Anna and Simeon who recognized deliverance in an infant package. Andrew and Philip who recruited with the cry, “We have found the Messiah!” But many of their fellow Israelites had stopped expecting. It had been 400 years since God had sent any kind of prophet. And though Israel was back in the Promised Land with a rebuilt temple, they had not been delivered from the pagan Roman empire. Some, assuming that God had given up on them, thought it best to assimilate with the secular culture. Others, thinking God just needed a nudge, organized revolts and uprisings.
Like Sarai with her maidservant, they had stopped waiting. Far from eager expectation, the daily life to which Jesus was born seemed more like stoic resignation. Messiah, if he was coming at all, had waited too long.
We face the same danger.
Those of us who get to live between the Advents benefit from the experience of those who waited for the first. The lesson they teach is clear: Keep watch! Don’t stop expecting!
Despite illness and divorce and empty places at our Christmas tables, God has not abounded us.
Despite all our mass shootings and military actions and wildfires, God is not slow in coming.
John Piper wrote,
The Christian life oscillates between these two poles: the overflowing joy of the “already” redeemed (Ephesians 1:7) and the tearful yearning of the “not-yet” redeemed (Ephesians 4:30). Not that we ever leave the one or the other in this life. We are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).
That is the posture of Advent. Joyful gratitude for his first appearing, and observant longing for his second.
Come, Lord Jesus.