Advent in Action: Watch!

By Rev. Doug Gray

      When I was a boy, the word, “watch,” went with Christmas in some kind of interesting ways. When my brother said, “Watch out! Grandma’s baking cookies!” I knew I had to be extra careful. Grandma was known for making “healthy” cookies, which meant she would add wheat germ, bacteria-ridden yogurt, carrots, and whatever else happened to be lying around the house. Mostly these cookies ended up being hockey pucks. When backed into a corner, our strategy was to dip them in milk for a minute or so. It made the cookies soft enough to eat, but made the milk undrinkable. “Watch out!” meant trouble was coming.
       “Watch” could also mean someone great was coming. One time when our favorite cousins were coming over, my brother and I had a contest to see who could see their car turn the corner onto our street. I won, of course, but then again I went farther up the street so I could see farther around the bend.
      My favorite watching has always been for the signs that Christmas is really coming. I love when the tree takes its place in the living room, and we gather round the tree to hang decorations. Many of the decorations have memories attached to them, and as we decorate, the memories swirl around us. We remember other times when we gathered round other trees with different people. I look forward to each sign of Christmas, each year a little different, step by step leading us closer to Christmas.
      The only times I have not enjoyed Christmas have been when I was too busy to watch. Maybe you know how that is:  we get so focused on going here and there, getting the cards out, decorating, baking, wading through crowds, trying to figure out how to keep everybody happy, trying to do absolutely all the things that might possibly make Christmas meaningful for someone. Sometimes it seems like Christmas is running us, that we get to Christmas Eve, breathless and exhausted, just glad it’s over.
       Perhaps this Christmas can be different. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have or what we didn’t get done, perhaps we simply need to become more aware of the real Christmas taking shape. The fact is that God is indeed at work around us—blessing us and others, working His gentle, mysterious wonders while we rush around. Perhaps we need to remember that watchful, expectant spirit we had especially as children, eager to see what great thing or person was just around the bend, our heartstrings caught unexpectedly by a carol sung from the heart, the possibility that the Kingdom of God is very near. If only our eyes might be opened to God around us, wouldn’t we see the signs of Christmas differently? Would we see this season as a once in a lifetime chance to make a difference? Would we allow the great light of Christ to shine in our darkness? Could we let our old, cold negativity be swept away by the gentle brush of angel wings?
       So this week, let us watch eagerly for Jesus, maybe even move a little closer so we can see Him a little sooner. He is closer than we think. In fact, Jesus is with us even now…and if Jesus is present with us, what would that change for us? How could we be changed by the touch of His hand, the mercy of His forgiveness, the joy of coming home at last? When we reach out to others will they feel the touch of Jesus’ hand too? Let’s watch for Jesus! Even better, let’s follow.