But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. 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 servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake. Mark 13:32–37
This years Advent Scripture (Mark 13:24-37) begins with Jesus’ words concerning the second advent, the second expecting of his arrival. His disciples wanted to know when it would be, what it would look like, where would they see signs? Jesus’ reply has confounded Christians for millennia — tribulation, stars falling, a darkened moon, the Son of Man coming on the clouds gathering the elect.
A lot of Christians have spent a lot of time trying to figure out all the signs so that they would know when it was going to happen, so they would not be left behind or left out. Others are just confused and maybe feeling bad that they do not know exactly what all this means. I think the exercise of end time signs and concern over being confused miss the point that Jesus is making. Jesus’ point is that you actually can’t know when he will return — whatever it will look like. So don’t waste your life trying to figure it out. Don’t spend the time that you have left trying to figure out when the “now” will become the “then,” instead, focus on the the life you are living now, your actual life as Jesus’ disciple, and do so in a way that you are alert, awake and ready for whatever comes next. Jesus does not expect us to know everything. But he does expect us to do something with what we know.
And what we know is this: we live in the time between the times, where God’s Kingdom has begun and is at work, and we can see glimpses of it. And so what we do in this time is learn to increasingly pay attention to these inbreakings of God’s kingdom in our lives. That is the business of Advent. Jesus shares his vision of the reality that one day all evil will be done away with, but “concerning that day or hour, no one really knows, even the angles don’t know when, but you need to be ready, and so keep watch.” Live humble life in the spirit of wakeful alert watchfulness.
Jesus wants us to be intentional in our living. To live integrated lives that are fueled by him and filled with his reality so that we live, in the words of theologian Todd Hunter as “Jesus’ cooperative friends, ruling and reigning with him through the power of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the world.” Advent invites us into an expectancy with the charge to keep watch. Not to look for signs of what one day will be, but to look for the places where God’s Kingdom can be a reality here and now, through us and through others.
How are you doing at keeping watch? Where are you looking so that you are sure not to miss the inbreakings of God’s Kingdom today?
Peace, hope and love