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“Keep awake! Watch for we know not when Christ comes.

“Keep awake! Watch for we know not when Christ comes.

Watch, so that you might be found whenever and wherever Christ comes.” Mark 13 The Gospel of Mark tells us to “Beware, keep alert”. Advent is about waiting and watching: waiting and watching for the coming of Christ. We wait for just the right time to celebrate the birth of Christ in our midst and we watch for Christ’s promised return. But how do we wait and where do we watch?

A long time ago I lived in an apartment, in a very rough neighbourhood in the east end of Vancouver. Many of the people who lived in this neighbourhood got by on welfare, others earned their livings any way they could. I moved into the apartment because it was close to the office where I worked, the rent was cheap, and quite frankly I was young and foolish. I ignored all the warnings of my family and friends and moved into the apartment convinced that I could handle anything that came my way. The apartment building housed the most unsavoury of characters.

The office where I worked was just down the street and every morning as I walked to work I would meet some of my neighbours returning home from an evening of plying their trade on the streets and in the alleys. Each morning, I would be met at the entrance to my office by an old man named Ed. Ed had been living on the streets for years. He slept on the doorstep of the office because it was somewhat protected from the winter weather. Ed always gave me a warm welcome when I arrived. He knew that when I got inside, I would brew fresh coffee. He used to tease me that, I was a sucker for a sad face as he waited patiently for me to bring him a cup of coffee. We never talked much, though. I never found out how Ed ended up on the streets. I didn’t know how he spent his days.

That year I drew the short straw and had to work on Christmas Eve. Before I left my apartment, I packed a small package of goodies for Ed, but when I got to the office, Ed was no where in sight. I asked some of the women who worked the streets if they had seen old Ed. But no one knew where he was. I went about my duties and soon forgot all about old Ed. I finished work early and went off to celebrate Christmas Eve with my friends. I had been looking forward to Christmas for weeks and was eager to celebrate. Together, my friends and I shared a fine Christmas goose with all the trimmings and then we went of to a candlelight service. The service was beautiful. They really pulled out all the stops, great music, lots of activity. The preacher even managed to keep his sermon brief. But somehow I was left feeling like there was something missing. The next morning I celebrated with my family. But I felt detached, like I was just going through the motions.

The next morning as I drove back to my apartment in the city I found myself wondering if this was all there was to it. Christmas had come and gone and I didn’t feel like anything had changed at all. By the time I had parked my car, I was feeling quite depressed. Christmas was over and nothing much had changed. When I got to the entrance of my apartment, I saw Ed. I’d never seen him anywhere near my apartment before and it made me a little nervous. I wondered how he had found out where I lived. Indeed, it frightened me a little that he had taken the trouble to find out where I lived. Ed looked very agitated. Nervously I greeted Ed and asked him why he was at my doorstep. Ed explained to me that he needed my help. I became very uneasy. The odd cup of coffee at work was one thing, but this old man showing up on my doorstep was quite another. And now he wanted something. Ed asked me if I would come with him to the park. Caught off guard, I reluctantly agreed. When we arrived in the park, Ed introduced the me to Karen. Karen was a very scared looking teenager, who couldn’t have been more than about fourteen years old. Ed explained that Karen had run away from home on Christmas Eve. He said that lots of kids ended up on the streets at this time of year and there were usually lots of unsavoury characters to meet them when they arrived.

When Karen arrived at the city bus depot, Ed spotted her. From the moment she arrived, Ed had carefully watched over Karen, making sure that she came to no harm in the city. Karen’s two days on the streets and Ed’s gentle persuasion had convinced her that she should really go back home and try to work things out with her parents. Ed explained to me that Karen needed money for a bus ticket home. After we had called Karen’s parents and safely loaded her onto a bus, I asked Ed if he would come and share a meal with me. Ed refused the offer of a meal but agreed to share a cup of coffee with me. In the coffee shop, I took a long hard look at old Ed. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. That night in the coffee shop, I looked into the eyes of Christ. I had almost missed it. Christ had come. I was so busy looking up that I had forgotten to look around me. Christ came to me in Ed. Ed’s care and concern for Karen helped me to understand what it means for us to be christs to one another. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Christ comes to us in the most unlikely of places. Just as Advent moves us toward the remembrance of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in the first century, it also reminds us that most of the world was preoccupied and utterly unprepared for that first Advent and many missed the whole thing. The question is: Will we miss the whole thing again?” For we do not know the day or hour, no one knows. Therefore keep awake–Christ may come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: “Keep awake! Watch for we know not when Christ comes. Watch, so that you might be found whenever and wherever Christ comes.” Prepare the way of our God!

 

 

Originally published HERE

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