Summary: Advent Alertness means to see the power of God behind our weaknesses and failures and let Him take control of our life.
The figure of the watchman in the parable of Mark 13.33-37, who waits alertly for the return of the master, reveals the true task of a christian. Our life is compared to a house with its watchman. The watchman guards the house and lets in only the members of the house and those who are welcome to it. He would not let in anyone or anything that would harm the interests of the house. At the same time, he does not run the house or try to control the members of the house. As long as he does his job well, he contributes to the growth and welfare of the house. The people of the house have the safety and security to go about their business undistrubred. When we apply this metaphor to our life, we discover that we are not the masters of our lives, but the Lord. Christ runs our life, not we. Our function is to be alert to facilitate His work in our life, like a good watchman.
But the human experience of failures is common. Once a man came to a parish pastor and asked for help. The pastor put him in contact with a small firm. He was given a job as a watchman. One day the manager found him asleep on duty and he was fired. The watchman came to the pastor again. The pastor called up the manager and requested him to understand his situation and be considerate. The watchman got back his job. Again he was found asleep on duty. The same pattern repeated one more time. Finally the watchman gave up his hope of continuing in the job. He felt trapped by his own weakness.
The pastor sat with him and reflected together. The question that he asked is important: "what is the power that you let run your life?" The watchman suddenly discovered that he had let the wrong power run his life. After he got his job back again, the same slips never happened. He discovered that he was not trapped. If we look at it closely, this new energy had always lay within him. But now he gave it its due place in his life. He let his own positive power in and let it run his life. An honest reflection on the experiences of weaknesses and failures in the light of the gospel leads us to sound solutions to the problems of our life. God is the positive power in our life.
That is how the Lord works. Isaiah 64.5 speaks about the human uncleanness. Ja, there is uncleanness in our thoughts, in our attitudes and in our behaviour. Others often tell us that our behaviour hurts our friends and neighbours or humiliates them or interferes in doing their job well. The way we try to fulfil our needs causes losses in their lives. They lose their trust in us. But they hesitate to tell us directly. Sometimes we overhear it. And it pains us. You see, the pain that we cause on others returns to us. I have often heard people saying, "I am like this. I have tried to change, but always failed". People often feel trapped. But the question is: "Are we ready to let the Lord in and let Him run our life?" And the message of advent is precisely that, that we are not trapped!
You are not trapped, says the Lord. I come into you again, when you let me in. We are beginning with the season of advent. It is the season of the coming and letting in of the Lord. Through our baptism, He lives within us like a big flame. But like the watchman of our anecdote, the Lord would be able to take control of our life, only when we let Him. That is what the Lord asks us to do: when we experience failures with the negative powers, we must pick up the courage to trust the Lord and let their opposite, positive powers to work. That is advent for the baptised. We have already experienced well enough that we do not manage things well by ourselves. It is better we leave it to God. With His guidance, we do everything well.
In this season of advent, we could resolve to cultivate within us the alertness to the presence of God in our difficulities. And that is the christian meaning of alertness, namely, to see the light and power of the Lord behind our weaknesses and failures. I wish you all a very spiritually fruitful season of advent and pray that you become good watchman of the house of God.