Tag Archive: Waiting


Awake in Advent

Last Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, I preached on Mark 13:24-37 at Community Lutheran Church:

If you’re anything like me, the past few days have been spent in a sort of hibernation mode. Packing in delicious food, watching T.V. and meditating on the wonders of comfortable pajamas and sleeping in. I am slightly ashamed that I really didn’t do a whole lot that was productive in that time. Yet, at the same time, I know that it was needed. Valuable time to rest and recharge. Precious time to spend with Jeff, the dog, and my family and friends. And I hope that you were able to have some of that time as well.

Each year, it seems that the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier. Now, emerging from a turkey coma, the world is going full steam ahead into Christmas, with decorations, shopping, parties, cookie baking, Christmas carols and the hustle and bustle of the holidays. With this flurry of activity and stress, it can be really easy to lose sight of God.

Meanwhile, we in the church enter into a time of expectant and hopeful waiting, yearning for the coming, or Advent, of Christ. As a result, the four weeks of Advent are kind of an odd time because we know that Christ has already come 2,000 years ago, yet we’re awaiting Christmas and Christ’s second coming where he will reign in the fullness of his kingdom. Holy and anticipatory waiting contrasted with the busy-ness and often chaos of the month of December.

And then we get these fiery passages about God tearing open the heavens, suffering in the world, the sun being darkened, the moon’s light giving out, falling stars and the very powers of the heavens shaking. Ummmm… yikes! I definitely feel the draw of watching the Grinch, making snowmen, eating gingerbread and laughing at ridiculous hip-shaking dancing Santas!

When we hear texts about the end of the world and the second coming of Christ, I think we have one of two tendencies. We may get nervous and try to figure out when it’s happening and how to read the signs of the times. It makes sense that we would try to figure it out given what we hear in Scripture, but Jesus also tells us, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Not even Jesus knows when all of this is going to occur! I think our second tendency is to say, “I don’t know when this is going to happen, so I’m not going to think or worry about it.”

Both tendencies, however, miss what we are being called to. And that is faithfulness. We’re being called to keep our eyes peeled – to be like watchmen, waiting with our senses on high alert, prepared for whatever will come next. That’s why we hear this Gospel text in Advent – in the season of waiting, preparation, anticipation, and hope for the things to come.

But what do we do while we’re waiting? We keep watch and keep alert for the ways God is active in the world. And we keep watch and keep alert for the places and ways in which we can actively participate in God’s kingdom, whether that’s listening to those who are hurting, cooking for and serving the hungry, praying for and encouraging others in the faith, or repairing and building homes for others. We use this season to prepare our hearts to receive Christ at Christmas and every day through worship, prayer, fellowship and service. We live out our baptisms and are fed by the Word of God, and at the Lord’s Supper. We use this time to allow God to continue shaping us and helping us to recognize Christ in our neighbor.

I’ve been struggling over the past week, and maybe many of you have been, too. I’ve been listening to conflicting reports from Ferguson, Missouri, reading articles, opinion pieces, and listening to interviews… I’ve been trying to figure out what happened there. I’ve been disturbed by the violence, not only of Michael Brown’s shooting, but also of some of the protestors. I’ve been upset by the hate and the vitriol I’ve heard and read. I’ve been saddened by families torn apart, by the hurt, frustration and the brokenness of the situation in Ferguson that is rippling across the country. And I’ve been wondering how I, as a follower of Christ and a white woman in Virginia, can or should respond. I know that by virtue of my skin color, where I’ve been born, and my circumstances in life, I have been lucky – I have not had to worry about the affects of racism. So when an event occurs that highlights the racial divide, the poverty and lack of opportunity for people of color in our country, I struggle to find what to say or do.

I know, however, that the temptation is to hear about these events, acknowledge them, and then just continue with my life. To hit the snooze button rather than keeping awake for the places God might be calling me to use my voice, my role, or my gifts for the sake of my brothers and sisters. But the truth is, while we await the fullness of Christ’s loving, merciful, and just reign, we are invited to be a part of God’s kingdom work. To keep alert and attuned to how God is tugging at our hearts.

And God is tugging at each of our hearts a little differently. Jesus says in his parable, “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.” Each of us has our own work. We have a voice and we have opportunities to get involved in our world. We are invited to be a part of the conversations and reconciliation needed in so many different issues at hand, whether that’s poverty, education, working for peace, caring for the sick, comforting the dying or grieved. You have been invited by God to speak to and live out the hope and love you have been given in Christ Jesus. To keep awake – to be alive and fully present instead of asleep, complacent or missing out of the life into which God is inviting you. Where do you feel like God has awakened you to a need in our world? How might you use the gifts God has blessed you with to make a difference?

There is one other time this phrase “keep awake” or “keep watch” is used in the Gospel of Mark. It’s in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus urges his disciples to stay awake with him and keep watch as he prays about his upcoming trial and then crucifixion. The disciples, as you may recall, fall asleep not once, but twice, nodding off at one of the moments of Christ’s greatest need.   As we begin the season of Advent, we are reminded not to ignore those in need around us, or to ignore God in favor of perfectly decked halls or the most expensive or decadent gifts. We are reminded to slow down a bit and to savor this time, watching with the eyes of faith for opportunities to experience Christ in others and to share Christ with others.

There is an Aramaic word that appears only once in the New Testament, but I think it helps to paint a wonderful picture of Advent. The word is “Maranatha.” Say that with me: “Maranatha.” It can either mean “Our Lord has come” or it can be read as a plea or command: “Our Lord, come!” This word is the prayer of Advent. It is stating with hope and confidence that our Lord has come. Although things may be difficult, God is in our midst and is working in and through us to bring about the kingdom. We know this because we know Christ has come, has died and was raised from the dead. We know that we have a God who brings about healing and forgiveness in even the darkest situations – even from the cross.

And yet this prayer expresses the eager longing of people tired with the way things are. It cries out and asks God not to delay in bringing about the fullness of the kingdom where all are seen as children of God, where justice abounds for rich and poor, black and white, young and old, and where love is the currency people spend freely.   Maranatha. Our Lord has come. Come, O Lord. Amen.

© 2014. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

Wrestling

So many questions, Holy One.
I see people struggling, asking.
They’re waiting, wondering.
They’re thinking and praying.

I, too, have many questions.
I’m struggling, asking.
I’m waiting, wondering.
I’m thinking, praying.

So I, like Your son Jacob,
will wrestle with these questions.
I, like Jacob, will wrestle with You.
And I will not let go of You.

I will grapple with You,
Knowing deep within that You
Bring the incredible blessing
And peace of Your Holy Presence
Into the midst of the struggle.

Inspired by Genesis 32:22-31 and all who wrestle with God and the struggles of life.

© 2012. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

Jacob Wrestling With The Angel – Chagall

First Snow

Today, I’ve been watching the snowflakes dance and drift slowly to the ground. It’s the first snow of winter and I love it! It’s coated the grassy area in back and the roofs of the buildings across the way with a white layer of fluff. For a while, I heard shouts of joy from kids playing in the snow – giggles and the sound of a snowball fight in progress. I wish I could have joined them, but, alas, the final assignments of the semester were calling my name. Even now I’m procrastinating!

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been loving seminary, but I’m ready to have a bit of a break! Right now, I’m in “get it done” mode and crossing things off my list makes me almost shout with giddiness: “Yes! One step closer!” It’s been a wonderful semester, but I feel almost as if I’ve forgotten some basic things in the hustle and bustle.

In school we discuss God, ponder God, debate about God and theology, learn about how people in the past have talked about and believed in God, how people worship, why we worship the way we do… It’s fascinating and I feel like I’m learning a ton, but it’s almost as if I’ve forgotten how important it is to just sit still and listen to God.

I find myself in dire need of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” Be still. Those two words are so simple and, yet, incredibly complicated. How on earth can I be still with seven classes, a part-time job, my teaching parish, and trying to have some kind of a social life?! And now, it’s Advent and we’re ramping up for Christmas. Being still seems impossible, but I think it’s the thing we need most desperately.

In Advent, we await the coming of Christ with great anticipation and excitement. In this season of hope and expectation, we wait until the time is right for Christ to enter the world. However, I think this is what we need to be doing every day – not just in Advent. We need to be still – to wait for God to burst into our lives and make Himself known to us. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated in Meditating on the Word, “to be silent does not mean to be inactive; rather it means to breathe in the will of God, to listen attentively and be ready to obey.”

If we’re running around, we might miss His arrival. We might miss the opportunities He wants to grant us in spending time with loved ones or making time for the stranger or the outcast. We might miss how He longs to speak to us through His Word if we say, “I haven’t the time to read yet another book.” We might miss speaking with Him or hearing Him speak to us in prayer.

The snowfall and the sound of children playing helped to remind me of the simple pleasures. They helped me to remember how relaxing and renewing simply sitting with a cup of coffee and taking things in is. Moreover, I was reminded of how important it is to sit quietly with God – to listen for His voice, to praise His goodness and faithfulness, to thank Him for the blessings we have received, and to just enjoy the company of the Almighty. How refreshing it is to be still!

And so, I pray:
Holy God, as the snow drifts to the ground, help us to remember the importance of being still and knowing who you are – the God of creation, justice, salvation, peace, mercy, hope and renewal. In the midst of to-do lists, errands and the end of the semester, may we rest in the sheer joy of sitting with you. I ask this in the name of your precious Son, Jesus Christ, AMEN!

© 2009. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

A beautiful instrumental version of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by “Casting Crowns” to put you in the holiday mood:

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