The Pleasure of Anticipation

When I was growing up, my mom used to say, “Often the anticipation of something is more enjoyable than the thing itself.” The older I get the more true I find this to be. Whether it is taking the kids to Disney or waiting for date night, the anticipation of something is a significant part of the enjoyment for me. 

These days in the midst of this pandemic the thing that I most often anticipate is online delivery orders. I know this sounds a little crazy but I have developed a whole system of anticipation so that I get the maximum amount of enjoyment from my order. Doesn’t matter if it is long desired wood shop tool or just a bottle of vitamin C, I try to maximize my anticipatory enjoyment.

Here is what I do. As soon as the website where I made my online purchase gives me a tracking number, I click on it. Usually all they’ve done is printed a shipping label, but no movement yet. That’s okay because then the next time I check the tracking number SOMETHING HAS HAPPENED! YAY IT’S COMING! Get it? Then everyday I click on that tracking number and watch my package travel from wherever in the USA slowly making its way towards my house. Then when my package is “out for delivery,” I watch the front door for a brown box. I listen for the talking computer that lives in my kitchen to tell me a delivery has arrived. As silly as this sounds, it is really enjoyable for me.  

With this in mind, I think the gospel this Sunday is less of a threat and more of an invitation to enjoy Advent/Christmas more. Let me explain.

In the gospel Jesus says we need to actively wait for the end of the world. He says, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” What does he mean? Jesus explains it is like a rich man who travels abroad and leaves his servants in charge. Jesus explains that they have to be ready for him to return any time. God forbid he return and find them not ready. 

My whole life, I read this scripture like a threat. It’s as if, Jesus is threatening us with the end of the world. If not the end of the world maybe Jesus is threatening us with our coming death! I always felt like he was saying, “Better be good, because you never know when you’re going to die! Better watch out!” Yikes! But that is how I read it. I don’t think that is the whole story and the way we can know this that we read it on the first weekend of Advent. 

Advent is all about preparing to welcome Christ again this Christmas. Advent is all about waiting and watching. Advent is all about Anticipatory Enjoyment! Instead of dreading the end of the world or our end, Jesus is trying to given us clues as to best enjoy this life!

Jesus is inviting us to live lives of anticipation. Jesus is telling us to wait and watch because good things are coming and we will lead the good life now by anticipating the good life of heaven. 

What do you hear when Jesus says, “Be watchful! Be Alert!” I hope you hear his invitation to have the best Advent you’ve ever had. Don’t worry, anticipate with joy!

LIVE IT: Figure out a way to anticipate Christmas this year. Advent calendar, Jesus Tree, countdown calendar, traveling wisemen, put one decoration on your tree everyday, etc. When you do these anticipatory actions, say a simple prayer asking for Jesus to come and to fill your life with joy. 

Zoned Out.

December 3rd Sunday Readings.

Do you zone out easily? To zone out is to kind of look off in the distance and think noah-silliman-136622random thoughts that don’t have much bearing on what is presently happening before you. Some people zone out in meetings or conversations or class. But when happens when the conversation partner, boss, or teacher catch us zoned out? Not good.

In the gospel, Jesus commands his disciples to be watchful and alert. Jesus invites them to be like servants who stay awake and watch, waiting for their master to return from a long journey. He goes on to warn them against the dangers of being caught asleep and unprepared. In other words, he asks his disciple not to spiritually zone out.

What does it mean to spiritual zone out? I’m not talking about zoning out during Mass, though we should work against that too, no I am talking about zoning out during the most important and impactful moments of life. I think it is easy to become the kind of people who start zoning out during boring or lifeless or even painful moments, but then start to get so good at zoning out that we start doing it during the fun, exciting, and joyful moments too. We sometimes get so good at avoiding pain by zoning out that we never truly feel joy or love because we sleepwalk through those moments too.

Advent is the season of waking up. This weekend starts the process of becoming awake and aware and watching for the abundant gifts God has in store for us. But the key is to wake up and watch. Whether you zone out independently or by mindlessly scrolling through your phone, now is the time to wake up, to watch, to breath deeply of God’s good gift of life.

Live it: Wake up by actually waking up. Don’t hit your snooze at all this week. Plan on leaping out of bed and taking 5 deep breaths right away. If that means you are up 9 minutes early, spend those 9 minutes in prayer asking God to spiritually wake you up.

The Good Word for Nov 30th – First week of Advent

For the complete Sunday readings click here. 

Do you remember the classic Folgers Coffee commercial called, “Peter Comes Home for Christmas.” (Watch it here.) I loved this commercial growing up and it was on every Christmas. In it, Peter makes his way home on Christmas and surprises everyone. It’s clear that no one expected him and yet there he was. And he made coffee.

The commercial is a little idyllic. I wonder if Peter’s parents prepared for him to come home? They weren’t expecting him and were happy he was there, but were they ready for him to come home? If they didn’t expect him to come home, I bet they didn’t do anything to prepare.

The question today’s gospel asks us is this – do we believe that God is coming to be near to us? Do we really expect God to come? If not, then nothing in our lives has to change. We don’t have to change anything about how we live or what we do day to day if we don’t expect God to come.

The message of the gospel on this the first Sunday of Advent, is that God is coming. God will return to his people. God is on his way and we should prepare, be ready, and be alert to his return. The key we can’t expect to know when God is coming, but we can be certain that God is coming.

If we believe that God is coming, what are we willing to do about it? How do we stay alert and ready? Jesus’ key word is “watch.” We have to look for God. My dad would say that we must keep our “eyes pealed.” We must look for God’s coming to us with the eyes of our heart.

Live It:
Pray everyday for this first week of advent this simple prayer: “God, open my eyes to see how you are coming into my life.”