Photo: (c) iStock.com / bkkm (image #79603399)“Therefore what I say to you, I say to all: Keep awake!”

I don’t know how it is for each of you, but this year as we move into advent and toward Christmas, my heart is full of longing. I am longing for a different world. A better world. A world without mass shootings, and the need for metoo#s; a world without nuclear weapons and unstable leaders with their fingers on the triggers; a world where renewable energy is preferred, and access to clean, healthy drinking water is a right; where everyone has access to affordable healthcare and public education is fully funded. A world without racial and religious bigotry, without misogyny and homophobia. And, to be honest, I’d really, really like God to appear and just sort that out for us. I’m tired of trying to be the change I want to see in the world and I feel overwhelmed by the impossibility of the tasks. I am indeed waiting.

Into this season of advent church tradition sends the words of Jesus recorded in Mark… “Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come. Keep awake!”

We are called to keep alert for a future arrival of Christ in Glory as we wait to celebrate the birth of Jesus all those centuries ago. But reading those apocalyptic words as a part of Mark-- a gospel that more than all the others centers Jesus in the midst of ordinary people with their ordinary economic and social lives, a gospel that focuses more on the present than the future, I think we should read these apocalyptic cautions in the same way: as an invitation to keep alert for signs of God’s in-breaking love all around us at all times. As we share our joys and concerns in worship, we’ll share our encounters with God’s presence too.

We are invited to hold on to the promise that even in waiting times, and times of great uncertainty and even peril, we are not alone. As we move through the season of advent, alert to God’s presence in the world, we’ll heed the favorite words of the messengers of God: “Do Not Be Afraid.” And we’ll seek ways to counteract a culture of fear with more hope, more peace, more joy and more love.

Wishing you a blessed advent, a joyous Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

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