Reflection – First Sunday of Advent – Year B
December 3, 2023
For ten years, I rode the school bus to town nearly every day. The bus came to our farm around 7:30am, but it never came in the yard. It stopped at our mailbox, which was 30 yards west of our driveway and directly north of our house. A window in our kitchen looked out at the mailbox. Trees and two large lilac bushes blocked one’s view of the road, so we didn’t see the bus until it was pulling up to the mailbox. In the winter, my mom would stand at the cupboard and look out the window while my sister and I stood ready at our front door, on the south side of the house and directly opposite from where my mom stood watching. The bus’s arrival always varied by a few minutes daily, depending on weather and how punctual the kids at the four stops ahead of us were in getting on the bus. Standing at the door, I couldn’t see the bus coming, but I was ready for it. I didn’t want to keep the bus waiting. I believe that need to “be ready” is still a part of me as I tend to be a bit anxious while waiting for something. I relied on Mom saying, “It’s here! Have a good day.” Once she uttered those words, my sister and I took off, running out the door, around the corner of the house and down a slight incline to the bus. I don’t recall ever walking to the bus.
My memories of waiting for the school bus came to mind as I reflected on today’s Gospel and Jesus’s admonition to watch and be alert. I don’t know if Jesus’s disciples did something to prompt this warning from him or not. Were they saying, “Is it here yet? Is it here yet?” like children anticipating Christmas Day? Was Jesus worried that they may lose their enthusiasm and was trying to encourage them? Or, were the disciples so laid back, relaxed, and indifferent to the arrival of the Kingdom that Jesus felt they needed a wake-up call? It could be any of those scenarios or none of them. Jesus wanted to get his point across and repeated the word ‘watch’ three times in the four verses.
Jesus’s reminder to watch and be alert provides us with some encouragement and motivation as we begin this new liturgical year. Watching and waiting are two of the main themes of Advent. For me, praying with sacred Scripture and doing Lectio can feel like watching and waiting for Jesus to come. When I begin my prayer time, I do not know what God will say to me and it is up to me to be aware and listen. There are times when I’m distracted, letting everything but what I’m doing at the moment have my attention. In those moments, I have said to God things like what the prophet Isaiah says today, “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways?” I don’t think it is possible to drive away all distractions, but we need to know how to set them aside and turn our attention to God, whether that is during our private prayer, Liturgy of the Hours, or Eucharist. God deserves our time and attention.
We need to be present, here and now, where we are, aware of what is happening around us. It’s too easy to not pay attention, to not be present. Will Guidara, former owner of a famous New York City restaurant and author of the book Unreasonable Hospitality describes being present as “caring so much about what you’re doing that you stop caring about everything you need to do next.” Using Mr. Guidara’s definition, I honestly wonder how often I am fully present in a conversation, at table, or during my prayer time. I carry the day’s past experiences with me into the present moment. I anticipate what will happen later in my day. I need to let go of both the past and the future and be fully present to the now. Advent provides each of us a great opportunity to start again, to be more fully alert and present to the important things in life.
What do you need to let go of to be fully present, alert, and watchful, ready for the coming of our Lord?