Lectionary Reflection: Matthew 24:36-44: Search in Expectation part 1

Wake up!

For the first time ever, we went out for Thanksgiving Dinner.  I couldn’t roll out of bed late and shuffle to the table in my bedroom slippers.  I couldn’t stuff my face and make that long, well-worn journey from the table to the couch where I could pass out to the distant sound of football.  No.  Our well-to-do friends graciously invited us to a free Thanksgiving day feast at their country club, and how could we say no?  The hardest part was getting everyone up and dressed in jackets and ties.

In this economy the needs are great.  We are struggling.  I am underemployed, like so many, and grateful just to have a job.  I write a lot, but whether a publisher ever shows any real interest in what I have written or not remains to be seen.  Meanwhile, I am grateful for the opportunity to preach, and have focused my time on several smaller churches which might not otherwise have access to regular ministry.  That is just who I am.  I suppose filling in at big suburban or urban churches would be more lucrative, but that is not where my heart is.  It is in small, country communities, even if they are not as well-to-do as some.

So here we got invited to a free Thanksgiving day feast.  Who was I to say no to that?  Rather, I said thank you, and enjoyed it very much.  But in order to take advantage of the offer, the first thing we all had to do was WAKE UP.  Get up, get out of bed, get a move on.

Advent is a time when we prepare for the coming of the Lord.  We mostly prepare to celebrate his birth on Christmas, because he already came to be born among us.  But Advent is also a time when we are to prepare for the coming of the Lord in power and glory – for the coming Kingdom of God, and of course that has not happened yet.  There is a natural tension there, certainly, since we live in between the times; but it needs to be like the tension of having read the best book, ever, and eagerly anticipating the sequel.  We saw the movie Christ.  Now we need to be looking forward to seeing Christ II.

In order to properly anticipate Christ II, the first thing we must do is WAKE UP.  Christmas morning, like Thanksgiving in America is such a sleepy time.  We are lulled to inactivity by our pleasant, childhood memories and traditions and all that dreamy Christmas music about White Christmases and such that seems to be everywhere you turn.  It does not help that so much preaching during advent is about watching and waiting, like encouraging people to become a passive couch potato with the game on for entertainment and eyelids drooping from overindulgence.  Just watch and wait, they say.  I say we need to be awake, get dressed,  drive the distance and on time lest we lose our reservation time for the coming feast.  There is a lesson there.

Here in America, my reading of history is that every generation has slumbered until personally awakened.  It began with the Pilgrims, all alive for Christ, but it was not long before they needed a Great Awakening.  Then came Whitfield and the Tenants, then the frontier tent revivals, and on and on down to Charlotte’s own Billy Graham.  And still we are so sleepy, and most preachers drone on about watching and waiting.  Don’t do anything, just watch and wait and sing Silent Night which we might as well rename Sleepy Night..

No.  Wake up!  Christ II will soon be in a theatre near you.  Get a move on or you may miss out.  And so you see, it is not merely enough to Awake my Soul, Stretch Every Nerve; we must also move.  Just sitting on the couch and watching and waiting won’t cut the turkey.

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