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Pastor's Column

Will You Be Caught By Surprise?

Pastor’s Column

First Sunday of Advent

December 1, 2019

“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know the time when he will come…

What I say to you, I say to all: watch!”

Mark 13:33–37

Christ advises us to always be on the watch because we do not know when he’s going to show up in our lives, when he is going to act in our lives or when our life is going to come to an end. What Christ does promise us is that we are almost certainly going to be surprised.

Photo By: Piotr Siedlecki

The first job that I had at American Airlines many years ago was as a “reservation sales agent”. This was a tough job that paid well with great benefits, but I was very anxious to get a better position with the company. At that time, I was answering the phone for eight hours a day, taking airline reservations, a task I found gruesome at best.I had a little headset attached to a phone pad –– and on the phone pad was a very scary looking red light. It would come on if my supervisor was listening in – or rather, after she had been listening in to let me know she was there. I never knew when the supervisor was going to be listening; and, in those days, they had no legal requirement to tell the customer either!

Periodically, as an employee who was on probation, they would listen to a series of my calls (we call this a “check call”, and we never knew when it was going to happen). One day after a particularly difficult series of calls, I said to myself out loud between customers, “holy cow, I hate this job!” At that very moment the dreaded red light came on and my supervisor at the time said to me, “Well, in that case, why don’t you just quit!” My career survived this, but from this experience I learned to be more watchful in the future of what I said.

Jesus advises us to be watchful. We never know when he’s going to show up, but he promises us that it will almost certainly be in a surprising way. So many times I have presided at the funeral of someone who was caught by surprise by their entrance into eternal life. When I pass by a cemetery, I am often reminded that many of those there had plans for the day that they died, not realizing that the “red light” was about to come on the phone pad of life, so to speak, with a voice that says, “Time’s up!” And we will probably be surprised.

Christ wishes to come to us in a surprising way this Advent. Right in the midst of our shopping and busyness, if we are watching, Christ will be present. We will see him in another shopper, or a surprising insight that comes to our mind, a funny coincidence, a remembered scripture, an urge to pray, a decision to help someone else. In a sense, Christ is always “listening in” to our conversations, but we’re often unaware of this until he makes himself known with the equivalent of a red light coming on. Christ advises us to be on our guard because we never know when that red light is going to come on for Christ to make himself known.

Father Gary

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