I have lived near the shore of Lake Erie for my entire life. Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and as such, is the one most quickly whipped into a frenzy when a storm comes. With this as a backdrop, the phrase “keep a weather eye out” makes perfect sense to me. If you are out on the water and don’t pay attention to the signs of changing weather before a storm hits, you could find yourself in trouble very quickly.
It is a good analogy for life, isn’t it. Think how quickly things can take a turn that we don’t like. This happens in everything from our entertainment in rooting for our favorite team in sports, to more serious things like work or health issues which can threaten to sink us financially or physically. While there is nothing I can do about the Buffalo Bills, I can work toward protecting my family financially by eliminating debt, building up savings, and purchasing insurance. I can try to improve my health through diet and exercise to avoid preventable problems. I can, should and I am doing those things but, I need to do them better and add to them, for my good and the good of my family.
Advent is a season that calls us to keep a weather eye out spiritually for our good and for the good of the whole world. It is a season to read the signs of the times and look for the Lord’s coming. It is a few weeks in which we are reminded to take the necessary actions to bring our lives into closer alignment with how we know in our hearts we are called to live. It is a time of offered renewal when we can examine how we spend our days, how we treat others, and how deeply we are committed to God. If we are honest in this self assessment we will very likely find our spiritual house in need of anything from a thorough cleaning to a major renovation. Advent calls us to start that work. Advent calls us to prepare for the Lord’s coming as surely as thunder calls a fisherman on Lake Erie to head for shore.
(My thoughts were stimulated this morning by reflecting upon the words of a brother deacon in the early days of the church. If you are interested in reading them I have included them below.)
To prevent his disciples from asking the time of his coming, Christ said: About that hour no one knows, neither the angels nor the Son. It is not for you to know times or moments. He has kept those things hidden so that we may keep watch, each of us thinking that he will come in our own day. If he had revealed the time of his coming, his coming would have lost its savor: it would no longer be an object of yearning for the nations and the age in which it will be revealed. He promised that he would come but did not say when he would come, and so all generations and ages await him eagerly.
Though the Lord has established the signs of his coming, the time of their fulfilment has not been plainly revealed. These signs have come and gone with a multiplicity of change; more than that, they are still present. His final coming is like his first. As holy men and prophets waited for him, thinking that he would reveal himself in their own day, so today each of the faithful longs to welcome him in his own day, because Christ has not made plain the day of his coming.
He has not made it plain for this reason especially, that no one may think that he whose power and dominion rule all numbers and times is ruled by fate and time. He described the signs of his coming; how could what he has himself decided be hidden from him? Therefore, he used these words to increase respect for the signs of his coming, so that from that day forward all generations and ages might think that he would come again in their own day.
Keep watch; when the body is asleep nature takes control of us, and what is done is not done by our will but by force, by the impulse of nature. When deep listlessness takes possession of the soul, for example, faintheartedness or melancholy, the enemy overpowers it and makes it do what it does not will. The force of nature, the enemy of the soul, is in control.
When the Lord commanded us to be vigilant, he meant vigilance in both parts of man: in the body, against the tendency to sleep; in the soul, against lethargy and timidity. As Scripture says: Wake up, you just, and I have risen, and am still with you; and again, Do not lose heart. Therefore, having this ministry, we do not lose heart.
-From a commentary on the Diatessaron by Saint Ephrem, deacon
(Cap. 18, 15-17: SC 121, 325-328)