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Traffic jam on the highway in the summer holiday period or in a traffic accident. Slow or bad traffic.

What is the most dangerous part of Advent for you? 1st Sunday of Advent

What is the most dangerous part of Advent for you?

Let me share two quick stories for this first Sunday of Advent.

I was not a patient driver the other day. I had to make a trip to Catholic Supply for some advent supplies. Now, I like to think I don’t ask for much when I am driving – just for people to drive the speed limit or close to it. That would have been fine. But on the way there, on route 66, I got behind a group of cars, and they were going 10 miles UNDER the speed limit. And sometimes even slower than that. And of course, there were the two cars doing that, SIDE BY SIDE, so you could not get around them…Arrrgh! Finally I get there, get the supplies I needed and settle in to my car for the ride home. This will have to be better, I thought. “Bzzzt.” It was worse! 13 MPH under the speed limit. (I forgot it was close to rush hour by the time I was back on the road. How do you all do it, day after day?) But at least one the way home it was not two cars side by side, so once you got past the offending care, you would be free. Well, people were bailing out of that line like rats on a sinking ship, so it took forever even to do that. I wish I could say I was the paragon of virtue in my driver’s seat that day. And that I didn’t think or say anything to vent my frustration. That would not be true…

And then, like this little whisper of grace, at the peak of my frustration, I remembered the line from the first reading today: “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!” I was so busted. So busted that I just started laughing. “God, you are a funny guy. If your second coming was right at this moment, I would be toast – and all over something as stupid as someone doing 27 miles an hour in 40.”

What would it be like for us to keep that line as a little barometer to evaluate these advent days ahead: “Would that you might meet ME doing the right, that I was mindful of you in all my ways?…” Pull that line out, during your commute home, around the water cooler, at lunch, around the dinner table with your family. Let it be your screen saver banner across your laptop. Live with the desire to be caught doing the right…

The second story. It starts around 2:18pm. A little yawn. Followed by the realization that I had just been staring at the computer screen for a minute and not taking in anything that was before my eyes. And then another yawn. And then a stretch, followed by another yawn. If I am smart, I’ll find an errand that I have to run across campus that will get me out of my chair. If I have the luxury, I’ll settle into my easy chair for an 8 or 12 minute nap. (sleep apnea is very good for that) That mid-afternoon time is my sleepiest time of the day.

But I have discovered, as I have reflected, that there are other times when I am ‘sleepy’ – but it is a different kind of sleepy. One where my heart loses focus, when my will falters, when I struggle to do the right, when it is easier to be asleep then awake.

  • A parent brings in a concern about a staff member at the school – and I wanted to ‘sleep’ – to not be aware or awake, because then I could just ignore my responsibility to the situation.
  • You read about the ‘tax reform’ which just passed in the Senate and now goes to a joint committee, which, as an ethical document has ALL manner of worrisome things about it, and you shrug your shoulders and think – I’m only one voice. Who will listen to me?” It is so much easier to be asleep than to do the grassroots networking it might take to make a difference.
  • Your son comes home from High School and every movement is screaming that it is a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad kind of day.” So you ask how they are doing and they say “fine” – and you let it go, even though you know it is not true – because it is easier to sleep then invest…

Into that tendency, comes these clarion words from our Savior: Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake! Be on Guard. And whether you hear them during rush hour traffic or the sleepy times, not just of your day, but of your awareness – let them be the watchwords and watch phrases of this advent season:

  • Be awake.
  • And be caught doing the right during all the moments of these days…

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