Mark 13:33-37 | 1st Sunday of Advent, Year, B
God of Extravagance, God of Soporific Motors
This gospel always worries me. I need a lot of sleep, and I can sleep most anywhere. I’ve missed some gorgeous scenery because I find a car motor to be so soothingly soporific. And, at our house, it’s not uncommon to hear, “But we did watch that movie, Mom. You must have fallen asleep.” So to read, ”May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping” (v. 36) is unnerving, because I’ll probably be snoozing away.
I’ve tried to get by on less sleep so I’d have more time to do more. But those efforts always backfire. Tired, I can’t do anything well, and I just waste time daydreaming of my bed. Is that what Jesus wants? What does be watchful actually mean?
The thing is we are all wired differently, and that wiring can change over time. If we need 9 hours of sleep, I don’t think Jesus wants us to try to get by on less. The Father made us the way we are, and He is a God of extravagance. He gives us more, not less.
I think be watchful means to be mindful: be aware of how we spend our time and our energy and be conscious of where we expend our resources. Unlike God, our resources aren’t finite. Periodically we should do a self-check to make sure our lives actually are actually playing out the way we envision. Otherwise, when the watchman comes, while He may not find us asleep, He may find us thinking we’re living one way but in reality, living out something else entirely.
The penitential seasons of Advent and Lent give us time to do just this, to take time to step back and reflect and, if needed, to make changes. God didn’t give us these seasons per se, but He did give us the Church, and the Church celebrates the wisdom inherent to these seasons.
I love the quiet waiting of Advent and the hope of what is to come. We’ve never had a full social schedule in the days leading up to Christmas, and while it runs contrary to whirl that engulfs most, I love that we take the time to get ready, to prepare, to savor. The slowly brightening Advent wreath that lights dinners during December is Advent for me, and I’m always just a little bit sad when we get to Christmas because then I know we’re “on” again, all systems are a go, and the kitchen lights will shine vividly for dinner again.
God wants us “on.” But He also wants us to be “on” in the right way. To do that, we have to take time to reflect and assess and to find Him. That’s being awake. That’s being aware of the extravagance of His gifts. We don’t want the watchman coming to find us asleep to all the good God has put into our lives. And, sometimes His good is as delicious as a car motor that purrs us into an easy sleep.