And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!
Never mind how unnervingly fast this year has been, how recent last Christmas still seems. Never mind how the hot sun of July seems like yesterday. The increased speed of the year's passing is only apparent: the years are fast, now, only because they represent a smaller fraction of my elapsed life span than they did when I was a child, not because time has actually speeded up.
On the other hand, it hasn't slowed down any, either. Whether time seems to drags or to race, it is passing, and each day we live is a day I will never live again. We all only have today: yesterday is irretrievable and tomorrow may never come. We are here, now, in the only here-and-now we have.
Live today fully, because you may not have tomorrow. But watch, also, because it will not always be like this. Live in the present, but live also in hopeful preparation for good things. That way, your happiness is increased: you get to anticipate delight and then you get to enjoy it.
Now, the reverse isn't true: we're never well served by dreading the future. It just ensures that we will experience every bad thing twice, once before it happens and then again when it does.
What are we watching for? Are we searching scripture this Advent for clues, working it over until we can make it yield secret details to us, until we can solve the puzzle of it, the puzzle that will illuminate everything that is and is to come? If we can get the chronology right, make the geography work, will we suddenly know that one thing that will make everything clear? No. Everything isn't going to be clear -- not while we're here, at any rate. So the project of combing through things, of running the numbers again and again to find the trick is a useless one. There's no trick. God isn't hiding from us, and never has. God is here to be seen, if we watch.
Watching isn't bustling. Watching is quiet. Slow, still -- all the things we are not. Animals watch, motionless against a protective background, watch for predators, for food, for other animals, watch the weather. They watch until they see the truth they needed to see.
We need to see a savior. We've always needed one, and we've always had one. It has always been possible for us to rely on a power beyond our own power, a goodness beyond our own, a strength beyond our strength -- we just don't do it. We prefer the fiction of our own omnipotence, and are prepared to overlook a ton of evidence in order to maintain it. It has always been possible for us to be simply human, to know our limits and resist accept them, to step down from our teetering perch at the center of the universe and find where we really belong. We just prefer not to.
But we can't see the savior from the center of the universe. We can only see Him from our own place, the place in which we've giving up fantasizing about our own importance, the true place of humility and truth. God is patient with us, more patient than we are apt to be with ourselves. We keep watching, and keep forgetting how to watch. Keep forgetting about that stillness. And every Advent, we get another chance to learn.
Psalm 80 or 80:1-7
I Corinthians 1:"1-9