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For Your Weekend: Set the Advent Alarm

Jeannine Yousif
December 2, 2023

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Mark 13:33–37

The snooze button: the archnemesis of my early morning marathon training. 

In order to get the most out of the morning hours before my husband and children got up and the most miles in before the demands of everyday life set in, my daily alarm was set to 4:30 a.m. 

I know. It’s ridiculously early. I don’t know if it was more my anxiety or anticipation of what was to come or my body just getting accustomed to that early hour, but more often than not, I would wake just before the alarm would sound. My eyes would open, my mind instantly alert and my body ready. Up and out I would go.

But then there were those few January mornings that were dark and so bitterly cold that my body and mind could not be lulled out of my comfortable and cozy slumber. 

If you’ve ever trained for a long-distance run, you know every mile of training counts. Missing a day or cutting a run short can throw off a weekly training schedule, especially if you’re a working mom with school-age kids busy with extracurricular activities, volunteer responsibilities to attend to, and, oh, dinner. Even with an involved and helpful husband, my bandwidth was slim, and those early mornings were the only time I had available to train. 

In the evenings of those days when I had succumbed to the temptation to stay asleep, I went to my bed repeating: “I will NOT hit snooze. I WILL NOT HIT SNOOZE. I. WILL. NOT. HIT. SNOOZE!”

How that snooze button tempted and lured me back to an easy and comfortable slumber when what my training called for and what I truly desired was to wake alert and ready for what was to come. 

Jesus knows the power of the snooze button. All too well. Do we remember the sleepy apostles in the garden of Gethsemane?[1]

He knows the hold this world and its creature comforts have on us. He is all too familiar with the temptations that the enemy uses to bind us to our sins. Stay asleep, the enemy softly whispers to us. Stay comfortable, slumbering in this deep well of pleasure. 

In this week’s gospel passage, Jesus, ever our divine coach, is training us to remain “watchful” and to “Be alert!” (Mark 13:33). The metaphor He gives to emphasize this need for vigilance is the man traveling abroad (Jesus) leaving his home with his servants (us) in charge. Jesus has left us with the promise that He will return, and because we do not know the day or hour, our Lord expects us to “live in a state of constant watchfulness”[2] and resist the temptation to take a spiritual snooze. 

Why, on this first Sunday of Advent, when the Church is preparing our hearts for the first coming of our Lord, is the gospel pointing us to the second coming? Why is Jesus’ warning of vigilance and watchfulness important for us to keep in mind as we enter into this quiet season? Because the temptation to hit snooze and stay asleep just a little longer is often the preferred option to waking up to another day of battling the growing noise of this world that keeps us distracted, overscheduled, and striving to prove our worth through wealth, status, and a perfectly curated Instagram page. 

How often does the world persuade us to hit that snooze button on our faith journey when what our Christian training calls for is watchfulness and vigilance? Saint Paul reiterates this in his letter to the Church in Thessalonica, with his exhortation to “not sleep, as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6). These words were written in response to hearing how easy it was for some to fall asleep on the job and fall away into idolatry, disorder, and sin; the very same behaviors that we, as 21st-century Christians, need to remain wide awake to. Sadly, snoozing is just as easy now as it was then. Where once we may have displayed an active curiosity and zeal for our faith, Scripture, and worship, hitting that spiritual snooze button can easily lead us down a path of complacency, apathy, and indifference to sinful behaviors. 

Advent invites us to pause and prepare our hearts for the birth of God’s gift to us; His gift of pure love—His only Son. This week’s gospel, on this first Sunday of Advent, reminds us that though it is His birth we are anticipating, it was through the ultimate gift of His life that we have been redeemed and set free. While Jesus may no longer be physically present here on earth, this gospel urges us to keep HIM present in our hearts so as to not be caught off guard upon His return.

It is this promise of hope in His return that we must cling to and also that we must let convict us if we are to remain vigilant. My friend, here is the sobering truth: Jesus IS coming again. Whether we believe it could happen in our lifetime or not, we won’t ever get a calendar invite for it in advance. Personally, I don’t want to be the one He finds sleeping on the job! He did not do what He did so that I could hit the snooze button on my faith.

So, let’s use this gospel as a reminder to earnestly reflect on our own hearts:

How have we taken care of the work that He has charged us with under His household of faith?

How have we loved the people the Lord has asked us to love? 

The work He has called us to, as servants in His house, is not a to-do list of chores but rather a call to love those He has entrusted to us. While sometimes loving certain people can feel like a chore, if we desire the Master to be pleased with how we have kept His house in His absence, then we must resolve to shake off the indifference and love well. And when we haven’t the fortitude, we must be humble enough to ask Him for “grace upon grace” (John 1:16) to do well the work He has charged us with—to love. 

This Advent season, as we quiet our hearts and attempt to slow down, we must not give in to the temptation to hit snooze. And if you find yourself drifting off or growing drowsy, open the window, let some cool air in to refresh and revive you, turn up the volume on the worship music, and snap out of your slumber!

My friend, “It is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to [you] now than when [you] first believed” (Romans 13:11).

With you on the journey,
Jeannine

Food for thought and journaling…

Who has the Lord entrusted you to love? Have you slept on the job of loving them?

Lord, this Advent season, I ask that You reveal to me the ways that I may have fallen asleep or hit the snooze button on my faith. Fill me with the grace to be honest in my assessment of how I have or have not loved the people You have asked me to love. Lord, I ask for the grace upon grace that You have promised so that I can love as You have asked me to love. Amen.

[1] Matthew 26:40 “When [Jesus] returned to his disciples, he found them asleep. He said to Peter, 'So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?'”
[2] Mary Healy, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture—The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2021), 272.

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