Advent: Our Long Watch

‘Tis the season for frantic shopping, eye-popping light shows in suburban front yards, and Christmas television specials.

It’s also the start of Advent.

This is a season when we look back at ancient hopes for a Messiah, and our Lord’s first arrival. And look ahead to when Jesus will be back. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 522524, 668674)

That should be near the top of my ‘to-do’ list, anyway.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Buckster Bunny’s real-world counterparts, holiday decorations, and enjoying life’s pleasures. Within reason. (July 9, 2017; July 10, 2016)

Today’s Gospel has some good advice:

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…. What I say to you, I say to all: “Watch!”‘”
(Mark 13:3337)

As Long as It Takes

I think everyone matters.

Each of us has humanity’s “transcendent dignity.” (Catechism, 1929)

We all have “the same nature and the same origin,” but we’re not all alike. We’re not supposed to be. (Catechism, 1937)

This is a good thing, or should be. (Catechism, 19341938)

Some of us achieve “newspaper fame.” We recognize some for their “heroic virtue.” (Catechism, 828, 1723)

Those two categories overlap, and that’s another topic.

“Newspaper fame” can last longer than Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame.” A few folks earn much more lasting recognition. Millennia after they lived and died, we remember Homer, Yan Ying and Himiko. Some of us, that is.

Then there’s Jesus. Two thousand years after he lived and died, a sizable fraction of humanity call him “Lord,” among other titles.1 I’m one of them.

I think what our Lord did is important.

That doesn’t explain why I review what we know about Jesus before each winter solstice. Along with well upward of a billion other folks.

And it sure doesn’t explain why we’re still watching and waiting for our Lord’s return.

After two millennia, we might have decided our Lord wasn’t coming back. Some have.

But like I keep saying, Jesus isn’t anyone else. (April 30, 2017; August 7, 2016)

I think John sums it up rather well:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
(John 1:1, 14)

I’ll be mostly talking about how I see our long watch, and why it’s more than just waiting.

There’s a short link list to Advent resources and homilies near the end of this post.2

Watching and Working

Our Lord’s return has been “imminent” for about two millennia now. (Catechism, 673)

Jesus said we should “be prepared,” since we didn’t know when that will be; and still don’t. (Matthew 24:44; Catechism, 673, 840, 1040, 2772)

That seems like good advice.

We’re not lacking for work to keep us busy during our long watch.

Part of our job is spreading the best news humanity’s ever had. (Matthew 28:1620)

God loves us, and wants to adopt us. All of us. (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:35; Peter 2:34; Catechism, 13, 2730, 52, 1825, 1996)

I’ve accepted the offer. That’s why I try to live as if the ‘family values’ matter.

Saying I believe in God, and that I’m a Christian, is fine. But it’s pointless unless my actions and words show it. (James 2:1719; Catechism, 18141816)

Part of the Family

Being ‘part of the family’ includes accepting my part of a job that’s not even close to being finished.

Thanks to a bad decision we made when humanity began, we’ve been treating each other badly. (Catechism, 396412, 18651869)

That’s given us an impressive backlog of issues: troubled relationships within families and communities, and between nations.

Our world is a mess, and so are we. But we’re still basically good. Our world is, too. I think cautious optimism makes sense. (May 28, 2017; April 23, 2017; March 5, 2017)

So does cultivating patience.

We have work to do. Lots of work. (Catechism, 668670, 19281942)

My job starts with loving God and my neighbors, and seeing everybody as my neighbor. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 1789)

It’s simple, and very far from easy. But it’s a good idea.

Maybe it also sounds less grandiose than what I’ll talk about next.

Building the Civilization of Love

(From “Avenue Eos” by Owen Carson, used w/o permission.)

Building a better world starts within me, with an ongoing “inner conversion.” (Catechism, 1888)

Not that I expect to single-handedly change the course the history, establishing truth and justice throughout the world.

I’m just one man, living in central Minnesota, with very little influence on world affairs. But I can suggest that treating others with respect makes sense, and that working for a better future is an option.

That’s one reason I keep suggesting that generosity, kindness, and sharing make sense. So does planning for future generations. (Catechism, 1937, 2415, 24192442)

The job will take time, lots of time, since it involves radical ideas like peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty:3

“…We must overcome our fear of the future. But we will not be able to overcome it completely unless we do so together. The ‘answer’ to that fear is neither coercion nor repression, nor the imposition of one social ‘model’ on the entire world. The answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the twentieth century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty….”
(“To the United Nations Organization,” Pope St. John Paul II (October 5, 1995))

We haven’t made much progress in building his “civilization of love” in the 22 years since St. John Paul II said working together made sense.

That’s hardly surprising. I am quite sure this will take centuries. Millennia, more likely.

We’re further along, sharing the best news ever. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that we’re a bit further along.

Acting like love is a good idea is still hard. We’re far from convincing many, including ourselves, that we’re all neighbors. But I think we’ve made some progress in the last two millennia.

I also think we will be waiting, working, and sharing a message of hope and love for a very long time. And that it will be worth the time and effort.

How others see holiday shopping frenzies, Advent, and all that:

1 A (very) few of our Lord’s titles:

2 About Advent:

3 Building a better world, a little background:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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2 Responses to Advent: Our Long Watch

  1. robertkurland says:

    Fine article, Brian–expresses my thoughts about the commercialization of Christmas exactly. We should be thinking about God’s great gift to us, Himself as man, the Incarnation.

Thanks for taking time to comment!