The fans of the singer Taylor Swift are known for their fanatical ability to wait for hours and hours and hours at the gates of stadiums before her concerts. Sometimes these fans wait only to buy merchandise, they don’t have tickets for the show.
Using a different skill, but in a similarly amazing way, astronomers and surgeons and detectives and military personnel can keep a hawk-like focus for hours in their jobs.
For most of us, lengthy waiting and watching is something we find quite difficult. If traffic or the grocery line or the waiting room at a doctor’s office is more crowded than we expected, we become irritable, stressed, distracted and lose our edge. Once we were able to keep our eyes glued on a television show or movie, now with so many channels and our devices even that’s not nearly as easy.
And yet, four times in the five short verses of today’s Gospel, we’re still called to “Watch!” and, by implication, to wait. The Gospel today begins and ends with that call to watch and wait. And the Advent season in general is a season of watching and waiting.
Advent is a season to watch and wait in the atmosphere of hope, bold hope, joyful expectation. Hope for the great transformation to come in Christ. This is the environment in which to watch and wait, the world of hope. We can come and go with our daily tasks, but can we sustain our watching and waiting in hope through everything?
Advent gives us a short period of weeks to expand our hope, watching and waiting to do so. Prayer, as an important component of our daily lives, gives us an arena to develop that hope. The late Jesuit priest Walter Burghardt called prayer “a long loving look at the real.” As we start this new church year, how can we create or develop opportunities to make that long, loving look? Can we meditate a few minutes a day, and build that up? Come to church early and sit before the tabernacle in adoration? Repeat a phrase or word prayerfully for several minutes? Find an icon or other sacred image in your house and pray before it? You can do it and you can sustain it, and in doing so you might discover what the Benedictine priest John Main once said, “Meditation is the process in which we take time to allow ourselves to become aware of our infinite potential.”
As you start to work on some of this, maybe your backdrop theme song can be: ”Wait for the Lord, his day is near.. Wait for the Lord, be strong take heart.”