During the season of Advent the Church in worship focuses on three themes of Christ’s coming to us in past, present, and future: His coming in Old Testament prophecy of the birth of Jesus, His coming to us now in Word and Sacrament, and His coming again in glory on the last day. Focusing on the future aspect of Christ’s coming to us, we find in the gospel of Mark a clear encouragement to be watchful for Jesus to return.
32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
Jesus states the importance of staying awake several times in this passage. Advent serves as a reminder for us to stay awake spiritually. We are not to sleep through our life of following Jesus. We are asked to resist all those temptations in the world that threaten to put us to sleep spiritually. Listing and examining the full scope of temptations present in our world today is an overwhelming prospect beyond my ability in a blog post. However a few under the radar temptations have come to my attention in recent months.
Often the comforts of technology and entertainment that entice us towards a daily experience of life apart from living in God’s Kingdom. With the growth in internet technologies we have more choices than ever for entertainment in the home. Smart phones and tablets entice us to be watchful up to the minute about breaking news stories. We may track sports scores or business deals with excitement, as history unfolds in the palm of our hands.
Through internet or cable packages we have on demand access whenever we want to our favorite programs in high definition. In most cases that which is entertaining and engaging to watch has little or nothing to do with God’s kingdom. In theory it would be possible for engaging dramas and exciting stories to portray life lived under the shadow of the cross. Any program that highlights the triumph of the gospel in the midst of the adversity with which Christians live in our fallen world certainly makes for meaningful and enjoyable viewing. However the economic forces by which the entertainment industry thrives under seems to insure the continuation of plenty of content that is of no worth. It is difficult to stay spiritually vigilant if many programs we choose to watch promote values against God’s Word.
Another risk of falling asleep spiritually is when we invest in relationships with those who are friends or family who do not follow Jesus. Although there is a value in befriending those who do not know Jesus- otherwise who is going to tell them the gospel. But in some social situations we feel pressure to simply go along with the common space values of others and instead of witnessing the gospel to them, we are letting them witness a secular outlook on life to us. Choices of friends can lead to spiritual slumber as the desire to fit in and be accepted by friends competes with the desire to grow in faith.
The common element between consumption of technology as entertainment and the choice of unbelieving friends is the absence of encouragement and nurture as the body of Christ. When we do not intentionally live as the body of Christ with friends and family we may fall into the vacuum of our society’s spiritual slumber. Staying awake spiritually means practicing our identity as the body of Christ in our conversations and interactions with our family and friends. We stay awake by keeping Jesus at the center of our lives in the home just as in worship. During Advent we celebrate that Jesus comes to us- even in the rhythms of our everyday life routines.