With today’s instant and easy communication technology, it is difficult to imagine not knowing when someone for whom we’re waiting will come. We know the exact time when the plane will land, when the car leaves the Interstate, when the guest is arriving at our house. While Christ doesn’t exactly communicate by texting us of his every arrival, when our watching for him is alert and wakeful, we begin to see all the signs of his Presence to us now. We prepare best for Christ’s final coming by the kind of watching we do now and how we grow in our ability to recognize his presence now.
We begin Advent this Sunday not by looking to Christ’s first coming into our midst at the Incarnation, but by looking to Christ’s return at the end of time. Christ has come, fulfilled his mission, and then, like the “lord of the house” in the gospel, is “traveling abroad.” We, “his servants in charge,” have each been given our own work to do until Christ returns. And what is our first and most important work? Watching for Christ’s coming! We must always remember that the watching is never in vain: our watching hastens encounters with the very One on whom we wait. Our watching and encountering is now and in it the past and future meet. We live now, and in this present moment Christ is within us and among us.
Four times in this gospel Christ commands us, “Be watchful!” or “Watch!”
While we are to watch for Christ’s Second Coming, that future can be elusive for us. What is immediate and manageable is to watch for Christ’s coming now into our midst. Being watchful and alert for the Second Coming is not enough; we must consciously seek to identify Christ already present now. If we are pro¬actively watching for everyday encounters with Christ, he will surely not find us “sleeping,” neither now nor when he returns. The Second Coming becomes real for us in our encounters with Christ in the here and now. Christ’s glory be¬comes real for us in our encounter with Christ in the here and now.
Our watching for Christ’s coming is heightened by seeing God in the simple, everyday things we do. Our lives often seem to bog down with the endless “sameness” of things. We spend Advent in the time and place we always live, and we still can find Christ anew because he is ever making us anew. When we encounter Christ, we actually encounter who we are now and who we are becoming. The work of Advent is to “Be watchful!” so that we grow in being Christ’s Presence for others.
We are the servants left in charge; we are the ones who watch and wait for the master’s return. The gospel illustrates for us how we are to be during our watching: we are not only to watch for Christ, but we watch Christ. From him we learn how to reach out to others. Our work is futile when it serves our own ends; it is fruitful when it manifests the very work the Son came to do—bring justice and peace to a weary world. Only by encountering Christ and opening ourselves to his goodness is our weariness soothed, our energy quickened, and our lives expressed in the joy of the Word being made flesh today in us.