"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down ... Be alert at all times."
An associate shared this story.
It was 1:00 a.m. and I was making my rounds as a night watchman on the 17th floor of a lower-loop office building. I did not use my flashlight as I looked for any possible lights. Suddenly a high-pitched sound pierced the dark and silent hallway and I felt the wind on my face. My heart raced, even though I knew that it was a bat. One has to need a paycheck badly to work as a night watchman.
The worst part of the job was the waiting. The time went fast when I was securing the building for the night, but after midnight the hours began to drag. Sometimes, I would work in the wood shop, even though I didn't want to be caught by a surprise visit from my supervisor. Most often, I whiled the time away playing cards with the boiler engineer two levels below the street. The best that could be said about my being a night watchman was that at least I didn't fall asleep.
When the clock struck 4:00 a.m., I would take the freight elevator up to the 19th floor. It was where desks and cabinets and other supplies were stored. It was easily the spookiest floor of all, but it had a small window on the east wall. I would look over the city lights and scan the horizon for any trace of the sunrise. I loved spring and summer because the sun would peek above the horizon much earlier. Once I saw traces of the sun, I would get a new spring in my step. My shift was almost over and I could go home.
It is one thing to exegete the Advent texts; it is another thing to be a night watchman and feel the text in one's heart.
Lord Jesus, again we ask you to come quickly. But until you come, give us the faith and courage to be good watchers.
Luke 21:25-36 (NRSV)
25 [Jesus said,] "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
26 "People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
27 "Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory.
28 "Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
29 Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees;
30 "as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.
31 "So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
32 "Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.
33 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
34 "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly,
35 "like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.
36 "Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."