Advent is a time of expectation, a time of watching, waiting and listening. In the readings for the first Sunday of Advent Isaiah reminds us of the importance of listening to the Lord as he reassures a besieged King Ahaz of Judah that: “In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it.”(2:1)
He is promising a time of justice and peace to a troubled Kingdom of Judah and speaking the first of his several prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. But, note, it is also a warning to Ahaz to put his trust in God rather than pagan alliances. Scripture indicates that Ahaz did not really want to hear God’s message because he thought he had a better idea. There is a little of Ahaz in each of us when we are impatient and tempted to choose our wisdom over the Lord’s.
Paul echoes Isaiah’s alert: “You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep…the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the armor of light.” (Rom 13:11-12) It is as though Paul is speaking to us saying: “Don’t just stand there; get moving.”
It is so easy to become locked in lethargy feeling as Paul says earlier in his letter to the Romans, “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.”(7:14) Advent is a time to get ready…the Lord is coming. At the end of a frantic fall, we all need a wakeup call to rouse us from our spiritual torpor and prepare for the coming of the Lord.
In the Gospel, Mathew repeats the message loud and clear when he warns, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. ..So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. (Matt 24:42, 44)
Clearly the message is that our confidence must be in the Lord not in the passing promise of the world for as the Psalmist wrote: “My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.” Psalm 62:6)