The Advent theme echoes in the words of Jesus in Mark 13. It could not be more clear.
Beware. Keep alert. You do not know the hour!
Keep awake, you do not know the hour!
and what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake!
To be awake is not the passive absence of sleep, it is active and alert. It is anticipatory and it involves our whole person.
It is the role of the watchman, the lone sentinel on a tower or ship, engaged in the protective work of scanning for threats.
Paul says that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we WAIT for the Lord. We are no simply watchmen with flashlights and cell phones. We are armed and dangerous! The enemy dare not rear his head among us for we have EVERY GIFT of the HOLY SPIRIT as we wait and watch for the Lord.
Waiting is a natural part of human existence. All of us have treasured memories of "the big day." Countdowns to the arrival of family or friend. I recall in middle school, living in an apartment outside Philadelphia, the day my Aunt, Uncle and cousins were to arrive. My brother and sister and I would gobble down our breakfast and sprint out the door, my mom's warning "they won't be here until late in the afternoon" a useless sentence. We did not care, we were going to watch and wait, and wait we did, sometimes for seven or eight hours. But when we saw the car the wait melted away. The joy! The joy! A joy which only a child's heart can understand.
Then we grow up and there is another kind of waiting. It is a more anxious waiting, and in its way more intense. Something is wrong with the baby, the parent, the friend, the spouse; we go to the doctor and endure the poking and probing. We wait, and wait. First for a diagnosis, then for a prognosis, then for medicines, then for the outcome. We wait. We hope, we do whatever they tell us, including sitting outside in the freezing cold at three in the morning because the doctor says the croop likes cold dry air. SO we sit and wait, waiting to hear the cough go away, the lump go away, the bleeding to stop.
Which brings us to the third kind of waiting. The final wait. We gather around the bed, our loved one a wasted shell of the person who carried us in his arms, nursed us at her breast, held us close in the night, entertained us or educated us. The breaths are shallow, so shallow. too shallow. we are amazed at how long a person can survive with so little air. Then it stops. It is over. Death.
These are all types of Christian waiting. The joy of the Kingdom. The sometimes painful process of healing/salvation. The required death to enter life.
If we are not waiting for Jesus, then for whom or what are we waiting. Is it possible that this is the most important question? Not, "do you believe?", but "DO YOU WAIT?"
Isaiah screamed to his God; O that you would tear the heavens apart and come down among us! Isaiah professed, You are our Father, we are the work of you hands.
In the New Testament those words are summed up in one Aramaic expression: maranatha, come Lord
Who can pray, come Lord?
The one who watches, the one who longs, the one who waits. stay awake. wait on the Lord.
And while you wait live like someone who has received every spiritual gift and use them as the Lord's Watchman!