Watching and waiting during Advent


"Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come" (Mark 13:33).

One of the hidden gems here at Catholic News Service is our weekly “Word to Life” column on the Sunday Scriptures. As you prepare for Mass on this first Sunday of Advent or reflect on what you heard, here’s the column for this weekend by Jeff Hedglen:

(Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7; Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37)

I can clearly remember sitting on the front porch with my brother and watching down the street for my uncle’s car. We knew he was coming sometime that day and with him would be our cousins. We were not a patient duo. We had many plans of forts to build in the basement and, if it was winter, snowball fights to be staged. These plans burned in our minds and every minute that passed meant one less minute to play.

To keep the boredom at bay we would play tricks on each other. If I caught my brother not looking down the street I would excitedly say, “There they — aren’t!” He would do the same to me when I tired of gazing down the empty street.

Every now and then we would hear a car coming. We would crane our necks to see who it was but be deflated when we realized it was not our uncle. After the momentary disappointment faded we would go back to watching and waiting.

I think the Gospel writer had this kind of watchfulness in mind when he exhorted the faithful to stay on the lookout for the coming of the Lord. He said, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”

It is impossible to have this high a level of watching and waiting every day of our lives. For this reason the church brings us the season of Advent. It is, in effect, a time when the church sits on the front porch eagerly longing for the coming of the Lord.

Through signs and symbols we are put on alert. In the Scriptures we wait with the Israelites as they continue their watch for a Messiah. We also hold vigil with the early Christians as they anticipate (and we still await) the return of Jesus.

Advent is a time to switch gears, and, like my brother and me waiting for my uncle’s car, we must stay alert and watch, for Jesus is coming. We don’t want to miss it!


Share a story of a time you watched and waited for something or someone. What did that feel like? How can we stay alert and watch for the Lord amid the busyness of the holidays?

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