By Regina Shands Stoltzfus, assistant professor of peace, justice and conflict studies at Goshen College
Reprinted from Advent Devotions
SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (NRSV)
Toddlers are notorious for resisting sleep. Life is much too exciting for boring old naps and the dreaded evening bedtime. Something might happen! Little ones can be quite comical (and/or maddening) in their quest to stay up “just a little while longer.” Teenagers, on the other hand, want and need more sleep. My now 23-year-old daughter epitomizes this dynamic to its utmost. As a little girl, she resisted naps and bedtime with all her might; if she wasn’t exhausted by her shenanigans, her parents certainly were! As a teenager and now a young adult, long naps became a coveted luxury.
In today’s passage, Jesus’ words to the disciples are a reminder of the natural rhythm of life cycles. The disciples are looking for a sign. As the seasons change, they know what to expect. Year after year, even during the roughest of winters, spring eventually comes. The branch becomes tender. Remember that – God remains steadfast. Even so, Jesus urges the disciples to practice a mature balance of resting in the assurance of God’s presence, and being ready for the unexpected. When things are shaken up, the faithful should be prepared.
The tradition of Watch Night services ties together this rhythm in a tangible way. Faith communities gather on New Year’s Eve to remember the year that has gone by and to pray together for the year that is about to unfold. They stay awake together as the New Year comes in as a sign of their preparedness. As you enter the Advent season, might you prepare a similar ritual of remembering and watching?
SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9(NRSV)
The Coming of the Son of Man
But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
The Necessity for Watchfulness
But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.