Today’s Advent Reading:
USCCB — December 3rd
While Christmas music has been playing on the radio for over a week now, the first day of Advent has just arrived today. Advent is the liturgical period leading up to Christmas which is only three short weeks away now. Advent commemorates Israel’s long anticipation of the Messiah and our own anticipation of Christ’s return someday in the future. This season is distinct from Christmas which lasts for twelve days starting on the 25th of December and is the celebration of Christ’s birth and future return. Technically speaking, all those Christmas hymns celebrating Christ’s birth shouldn’t be sung now during Advent but only during Christmastide. And yet, every year, the Christmas season seems to come earlier and earlier. This year, I saw my first Christmas ad on October 10th.
There is a conflict between the calendars of advertisers and Christians. But why don’t we Christians just give in? Christmas is after all a good thing. The more of it the better. I love Christmas songs and decorations. A few more weeks of it certainly wouldn’t hurt. What, besides our own stodginess, is preventing a longer Christmas season?
The answer can be found in today’s reading from Mark, where Jesus warns that Christians must be vigilant because His return could come at any time. Christians do not live according to the calendar and times of the world but to those of Christ. Jesus commands his disciples to wake up, because like a master coming home to his servants, He could come back at any time to judge the world. The disciples must not fall asleep as though they were free men. The disciples are servants of God and must always be on duty for Him.
There is a temptation to live according to the schedule the world gives us. Youth is for finding yourself and sowing your wild oats. In middle age, you build your career, have a family, and save plenty for retirement. Finally, you move to Florida and spend your golden years playing golf. There is a temptation to live according to the schedule Harvard gives us. Spend all your days jumping between extracurriculars and classes. Go out every Friday and Saturday night. Stop sleeping, eating, and showering during finals to study all the time.
These schedules are by no means inherently bad, but for Christians, they do not represent the ultimate truth of how we are to manage our time. When the world says to save well for retirement, Christ says “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” When Harvard says study for your exams all day, Christ says “do not be anxious about your life.” Saving and studying are not bad things, but in the end, they are worldly concerns and secondary to life as a follower of Christ. A Christian’s actions are not about what’s good today, good this semester, or good this lifetime. They are about what is good forever.
And so Jesus commands us not to fall prey to worldly time, not to fall asleep and be caught off guard when He returns. We must be awake to the reality that Christ can come at any moment, rather than wake and sleep according to the world’s passage from day to night. Jesus uses the same sort of language we hear today from social justice activists: “stay woke!” Such a slogan implies that most people have fallen asleep and are totally unaware of what is really going on in the world, that those who are awake to what is happening must be vigilant. This is precisely Christ’s message as well. We Christians know that the world is not an accident, morality is not relative, and our lives are not our own. We Christians must live our lives by following the truth Jesus revealed rather than by the appearances of the world.
The liturgical calendar is one of the many ways that we can live according to God’s schedule rather than the world’s. No matter what is going on in the world or our own lives, we turn to certain parts of God’s story at different times of the year. Whether this particular December seems like a good time for hope and prayer for the return of Christ is of no importance, we will always turn to hope and prayer in the season of Advent. Just as we turn to worship, rest, and the story of Christ’s resurrection every Sunday no matter how much more convenient or fitting it would be to do so on another day.
This Advent, the Ichthus will be staying woke and following God’s calendar by spending each day in scriptures and blogging about it here. Every day in Advent, we will post a link to the daily readings from the lectionary along with a short devotional about them. We hope you will join us this Advent through these posts, as we all eagerly await the celebration of Christ’s birth and the day of His return.
Greg Scalise ’18 is a Philosophy and Classics joint concentrator in Pforzheimer House.