Monday, November 28, 2022



Advent 1 / Year A

Matthew 24:36-44

Nothing will rouse a student from slumber faster and more effectively than the teacher saying, “Pay attention class.  This may just appear on the final.”  It indicates this is important.  This is something you don’t want to miss.  This is something you need to know.  When a teacher says this it is a signal and a gift.  It tells the student who is sorting through information and weighing its value what is important and what is not, what is essential and what is not.

Oh, if only life in general had such a voice to point out to us the stuff we really need to know and the things we really need to do!  Well, in fact, it does.  Some call it the work of the Holy Spirit, others may refer to it simply has human intuition, but there is something at work in us; something speaking to us with a kind of inner wisdom sifting through all that bombards us to help us discern what matters most.  The only problem is this voice typically is very soft and does not always demand to be heard.  It has to be welcomed.  In the Christian tradition the name for this spiritual discipline is watchfulness.

Think about how, as he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus exhorts his followers to watch and pray, but each time he goes to them he finds them asleep.  Today’s teaching to stay awake is closely related to watchfulness.  Something is about to happen and you need to keep an eye out.

Brian Hedges, in his book Watchfulness, describes the three components of this discipline.

· Attentiveness – being observant of your heart.  What is it saying to you?  Why do you react the way you do?  Why do you feel the way you feel?  In this sense, attentiveness is a close kin to self-awareness.  Do you have a sense of who you are and why are you the way you are?  You are not an accident.  It has taken a lifetime to become you.  Much of who you are should be embraced.  Some of who you are needs to be untangled.  There are parts of you that need to be discarded. 

· Vigilance – not in the sense of being hyper-alert, 24/7, but consistent and disciplined, setting aside time to contemplate and consider what is happening in your life and in the world.

· Expectancy – not just that trouble lurks around every corner, but also having a hope goodness and blessings and moments of beauty fill our days.

These elements of watchfulness – attentiveness, vigilance, and expectancy – are themes woven throughout the season Advent.  They speak to us of our need to slow down, to be still, and to pay attention to all those things that are important, but easy to miss; to regard what matters most but is easily lost in the midst of life’s demands.

Being watchful is a way to foster an inner conversation.  You are taking in a lot of data as you go through your day.  But data needs to be examined if it is going to become information and information needs to be analyzed if it is going to be converted into wisdom and right action.  Jesus says this inner conversation gets short-circuited because we are “asleep.”  It is not an indictment against getting appropriate rest.  It is a warning not to sleepwalk through life.

So much our modern world discourages us from spending time with ourselves.  Think about how cellphones, earbuds, TVs, gaming systems, and internet connectivity stifles the kind of inner conversation watchfulness seeks to nurture.  Think how hard it is to pay attention when your attention is absorbed by technology.

Melissa Bane Sevier, in a post on her blogsite, suggests we do the following:

· Pay attention to the people closest to you – how will you give and receive love in these relationships?

· Pay attention to the people you encounter – how might your interactions become holy moments?

· Pay attention to people least like you – how might you learn from them?

· Pay attention to God and what God is doing in the world.

· How can you awaken your senses to pay attention to yourself – how will you awake to your body, soul, and spirit and how might this heightened awareness affect how you spend your time?

Advent invites us to ask questions like these; to be more aware of the world around us and our place in it.  Advent invites us to anticipate God’s engagement with us; breaking into our lives in new and unexpected ways.  This Advent I invite you to be watchful.