December 1, 2013
ADVENT I (A)
Therefore stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. – Matt. 24: 42
There was a small iron-working town where the mills were kept running day & night. The great steam hammers, some of them weighing several tons, were going all the time, beating out huge masses of molten metal. All night long the sound reverberated through the streets of the village. But the townspeople had become so accustomed to the noise that they could sleep soundly through it. One night, the machinery broke down, the hammers suddenly stopped working, & nearly everyone in town woke up. They had been awakened, unexpectedly, by the silence.
We live in a world of incessant noise & multiple distractions, all of which make it difficult, if not impossible, to focus upon (much less desire) the life of the spirit. God cannot be heard above the cacophony of advertising pitches & self-important projects that we indulge ourselves in. I know some who fear silence. So God wakes us up, gets our attention as it were, with silence, with His apparent absence. Due to our preoccupation with other things, we may not notice at first; but sooner or later it dawns upon us that something vital is missing from our lives, that there has to be more to life than just making a buck or trying to impress others.
One inadequate response to this condition is to tune out & become oblivious to the competing demands for our attention. The marketers of aspirin have convinced us that discomfort is something abnormal, something to be banished with a pill; so tranquilizers & sleeping pills are in great demand these days (not to mention the drugs that send us into outer space on artificial “highs”). But trying to run away from God doesn’t work. It doesn’t spare us the pain of separation from Him, nor does it stop Him from pursuing us.
In the final days of His ministry on earth, Jesus spent much time preparing His disciples to deal with life after He was gone. He told them to remain in touch with the reality that God is in charge – always. He reminded them of the Old Testament story of Noah & the flood, about a people who had lost touch with the reality of God & were destroyed. What we don’t know or what we refuse to take notice of can hurt us. “Stay awake, therefore,” said Jesus. “Be alert!” Be prepared to receive your Lord, day-by-day & moment-by-moment.
Charles Lindberg was known as Lucky Lindy after his history-making flight across the Atlantic Ocean, but more than luck was involved in his spectacular flight. It demanded eye-straining alertness over a long period of time; & our Lord is trying to tell us staying awake spiritually is just as necessary for a spirit-filled life. It won’t do to be buried in the past, dreaming about the way things were, or wedded to the future, dreaming about the way things are going to be, becausenow is the time when we least expect Him to come. Today is the day the Lord comes. Today is the day to rejoice & be glad in it. Today is the day to stop worrying about the past or the future & allow the blessed silence awaken us to the presence of the Lord in our life.
In 1666, a French soldier named Nicholas Herman joined a Carmelite Monastery (a contemplative order), & became known as Brother Lawrence. He wrote a book entitled “The practice of the Presence of God.” Assigned to the monastery kitchen, it became his cathedral:
“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; & in the noise & clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the altar….”
Our lives can be flat & lifeless or they can be rich & alive with significance. We can live as though unaware of the nearness of God, or like Br. Lawrence, seizing every moment as an opportunity to draw nearer to the greatest lover the human heart has ever known. Which is it to be this Advent?