What's the worst sound you've ever heard? Is it the sound of metal on metal when cars crash into each other at high speed? Is it the mournful moan of someone who has just lost a soul mate? Is it the brutal sound of someone physically pounding someone else? Or the desperate cry of an unattended baby? These are all disturbing sounds. My choice for the most annoying sound is not a jackhammer breaking up concrete, nor is it a dental drill; it's this: (Alarm clock goes off!) It's the wake-up call to get out of bed. It's the alarm to awaken from my comfort zone of mattress, pillow and blanket and face the world. That sound disturbs me, and I want to turn the alarm off and go back to sleep.
This first Sunday of Advent, the Scripture message is like that alarm clock; it's about waking up from sleep. Paul writes: "The night is over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God wants!" Jesus tells us: "You have no idea what day I will come. Therefore, be vigilant!"
How might we respond to this wake-up call? Well, we might shut off the alarm and go back to sleep. We might get up and do some shopping : after all, it'll soon be Christmas! But today's Scripture readings suggest a different response: wake up and smell the coffee: Begin to see things as God sees them. We are created in the God's image, so our vision should be similar to God's vision. Yet we spend much of our lives in a fog, focused not on the things of God but on what marketers tell us we absolutely must have to be happy. If you think this is an exaggeration, compare the crowds of people shopping on Black Friday to the number of people at church on Good Friday!
The more attention we pay to material things, the less attention we likely give to God's gifts. That's why God calls us to wake up. God is calling us to focus on truly important things with our whole mind, our whole heart and all our energy, just as Jesus was in the Gospels. Wake up to the wonder of God, to the beauty of creation, to the love of family and friends, to the uniqueness of each person in our lives, to the finite gift of time. It sounds easy, but it's not! There's a lot of commercial and superficial competition around.
Time has always been with us, one moment after another, rolling in like waves on the seashore : every day, every week, every season, year after year. We never think of running out of time, but it will happen! We take time for granted, sleeping our lives away, falling into habits that numb our brains and deaden our spiritual lives. We scarcely have time for prayer because we're too preoccupied with ourselves and our material needs. Consequently, we seldom think of the goodness of God, the blessings of God, the mercy of God and the abundant life to which God is calling us.
Advent is a wake-up call (alarm goes off!). It's the season that invites us to renew the life of our soul, to re-energize our prayer life, to appreciate the beauty and goodness all around us, to be a thankful and wonder-filled people who give ourselves wholeheartedly to others, especially those in need, as Jesus did. Then when Jesus finally comes, he'll recognize us and we can run to him and embrace him without fear, without regret. But first, we have to wake up! The clock is ticking!