Sunday, November 29; First Sunday of Advent

 Be vigilant at all times and pray. 

These words of Jesus from Luke’s Gospel come as a warning and seem somewhat out of place as we begin Advent.  They cast a shadow over the ‘Christmas craze’ now taking place.  Perhaps this seasonal ‘rush’ acts as a distraction from what Jesus really wants us to see and that we tend to avoid, keeping us indifferent from Advent to Advent; our faith stillborn, stunted.

Vigilance and prayer are meant to open our oft-drowsy eyes to God who’s at hand and “at the door”.  Both act as tools, if we let them, grounding us amid the flux of time and at those moments that leave us “in dismay” and “perplexed” as the Gospel puts it.  And there’s quite a bit of that going right now in our frightened and distracted world.

Be vigilant.  I looked up the word and it means:”Keeping careful watch for possible dangers and difficulties.”  There’s been much of that going on lately in Paris.  Yet, the vigilance of which Jesus speaks is of a deeper kind and why prayer is yoked to it; indispensable, really.   It is the vigilance of the heart because we have this habit of looking away rather than noticing what’s really at hand when it comes to our lived reality.

With this vigilance in mind, I recall the Seattle Times article I read earlier today and written by Nicole Brodeur.  Her sister was visiting recently and asked “What’s that?” as they exited off I-90 and on to Rainier Avenue.  They had just passed a cluster of tents, blue tarps and shopping carts “packed with rain-soaked belongings.”  She replied, “That’s a homeless camp”; part of her daily routine she no longer tends to really notice.  And Brodeur reflected:

It scares me that I am so inured, so used to it.  So cynical.  Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness?  That went well, didn’t it? 

She realizes a tendency in most of us to “look away” when it comes to the homeless and this growing concern.  Individually and collectively we lack vigilance; and, because of it, the homeless haven’t got a prayer.  Yet, light does shine in the darkness as Advent promises.  In the article she mentions Kristine Moreland, a Kirkland mortgage broker who makes it her practice to bring food and supplies to those living on the streets.  She said that this has helped her to see them as persons who need to know they are loved and worth more.  Moreland’s father has lived on the streets for years.  So, this growing concern hits home.

Moreland applauds Mayor Murray’s recent effort to make homelessness a priority and “thanks God” this is being brought to the forefront.  To me, this mortgage broker is a “light shining in a dark place”; her vigilance an answer to a prayer.  To me, she sheds meaning on the ‘why’ of Advent and demonstrates that we can no longer “look away” if we take seriously Christ’s birth.  Because it will mean having eyes open to the homeless and seeing in them, mysteriously, the One born outside a crowded Inn; God very much at home among tents, blue tarps and shopping carts packed with rain-soaked belongings.     The One for whom we long is there.  Do we dare look away?

Father Tim Clark, Pastor



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