“Stay awake” (Matthew 24:42). At the beginning of our preparation period for the coming of God, Jesus gives us both the intention and challenge of his earthly inbreaking. God comes to earth to gain our attention and He does this because He knows that our focus is, too often, not on Him.
Have you ever heard the story that surrounds your birth? Did your parents ever explain the events that took place the day you entered this world? How did your mother arrive at the hospital? What time were you born? Who were some of the first people to hold you? These details seem to have a hold on us, no matter how old we become. For that day, and probably several months that followed, you were the center of the universe for your parents. You received attention just by the very fact that you existed. You were not here for the longest time, and then one day you appeared. Each one of our lives impacts the existence of our loved ones forever. This is never more evident than on the day of your birth.
Last year, my wife’s cousin was born the week of Christmas. I remember getting the call and rushing to the hospital after work. The group of around eleven people were huddled around the mother’s bed in the small quarters of a private hospital room. The usual talkative crowd, did not have much to say while we were together. The activity was quite simple: everyone’s eyes were pierced on Gianna. Her mother would hold her, and then pass her off to each family member while the necks of us all jerked back and forth to follow this eight pound person who was a mere seven hours old. When she was given to me it hit me how everyone in the room was staring at me. I realized that yes everyone is staring at her, but they’re also hooked on how the one holding her is gazing into her eyes.
This is what inspiration and transcendent moments do to us: they silence us and keep us hooked on what is most important. They wake us up to the realities that lie directly behind the curtain of our created priorities that we often place above and before our relationship with God. When we hold someone or something precious it re-orients us, it breaks up the routine of our lives.
Advent was created to do this to us. It’s nature is meant to come crashing into our laps as a reality that breaks up the routines of life and pulls down the curtain between us and the One whose birth story changes the direction of the universe. The way we look at and look towards someone or a coming event determines just how pivotal we take it to be. When we hold the coming of Christ in our minds, what are we most consumed by? Is it Him or is it something else? Is it what we have to get done or what we He does?
If you do not know the story of your birth, ask your parents or someone who might know. Pay attention to the details and remember that this one moment in time changed everything for you and for those that love you the most. Most importantly though, let us focus on the birth story that we all know well, maybe so well that it no longer impacts us.
Let us remember that His reason for coming is to gain our attention, but also to remind us that we can too often forget God. This Advent, let us be more awake than ever to how He enters our life each day. Let us pay attention to the God that stops at nothing to win our hearts so that when He does come, His birth will change us forever.
Stay awake for God, look for Him in your life this week, prepare for his birth, and watch as you find that His eyes are already pierced down at you. As if He were a parent holding His newborn child.