Readings: Psalm 122; Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

In the days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains…the word of the Lord shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Isaiah 2:2, 4 NRSV

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, or the Son, but only the Father…Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Matthew 24:36, 42-44, NRSV

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone and the day is near. Let us then lay aside works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Romans 13:11-13, NRSV

Isaiah shares a vision of the future, when God’s children will let go of violence and ignorance, throwing out the directions on how to win at the expense of others. In the days to come, resources and time devoted to destruction will be invested in restoring the environment and making sure everyone has all the basics to live a meaningful life. It won’t come without a lot of work, though – swords don’t beat themselves into plowshares, after all. But Isaiah didn’t give the when along with the vision.

Jesus doesn’t provide the when, either, because he doesn’t know. God only knows, he tells us. The reign of God will come like someone breaking into your house, so be ready. Again, it doesn’t seem to be something that just happens – like a good meal, it doesn’t cook itself.

When it does come to pass, how we treat each other and understand our own worth is yanked out from under us; it feels like the end of the world, maybe, but it’s really just the end of what kills us. The thief takes away our darkness and leaves behind revelatory light. Whenever it comes to pass…

Perhaps the reason God only knows when this will be is because it’s connected to our actions. Until we put in the work, until we start living transparently – acting the same whether anyone is around to see us or not – it will stay in the realm of whenever.

But don’t forget that we already know what time it is. It’s Advent – time to wake up and live into the reign of God. How amazing is that!

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “Awake”

  1. Thought-provoking. Found this in today’s email:
    Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

    Matthew 24:44
    When I was an acolyte as a young child, I would listen for cues in the service in order to remember what to do. For example, one of the jobs of the crucifer was to bring down the cushions to the front of the altar in order to prepare for communion. I knew to bring the cushions down when I heard the celebrant say, “the gifts of God for the people of God.”

    I constantly thought about this cue throughout the service because I was worried that I might miss it. I was constantly vigilant and ready to act. That is how Jesus encourages us to be in this passage. Keep awake. Listen. Prepare yourself for God like a young acolyte.

    There will be no cue, so it is even more important to be vigilant and watchful. We are all waiting for the Lord. Let’s make sure we are ready and continue to listen attentively each day as God guides us this Advent season.


    Eleanor Withers
    Episcopal Church Programs Associate

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