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The Art of Watching
November 28, 1976

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

Advent means that something is going to happen, but that that something is not yet ready to happen. So we are in a state of expectation. Most of life is spent expecting anticipating, waiting. The Bible says, “Wait on the Lord,” or the word watch is used. Wait implies a passive state, while watch implies some kind of action. Watch, for you do not know the day, you do not know the hour, you do not know the time when the Lord might come, when the Lord might come into your life, when the Lord is ready to bless you in a certain way. Watch, be ready, be prepared for you do not know when. Advent doesn't necessarily mean that we should be somber. Advent doesn't necessarily mean that we are to be constantly reflective and quiet. Advent can be fun and exciting. The days preceding a birthday, or the days preceding Christmas, that anticipation when you shake and rattle those gifts, that's a part of the celebration. In fact, the celebration has something missing when that period of anticipation has been missed. Instant fun, instant pleasure, instant gratification, instant celebration misses the whole dimension of waiting, anticipating and watching. Advent is the time when we watch and when we get ready. Christmas, the celebration of his coming. may be the best we've ever had but many opportunities in life are missed because we weren't ready. How many opportunities, how much of life has passed you by because you weren't watching? You weren't ready. 

Conrad Weiser has written, “When the TV broke. Tragedy of tragedies, the picture faded right in the middle of an old war movie. Sure, we knew how it would end. We saw it before and a hundred like it, but the silence in the family room was oppressive. What do we do now? She'd read the paper. I ate too much and sat immobilized at the opposite end of the sofa. The kids asleep. The dogs lying quietly on the floor, one lifted its sleepy had to look around the room for the silence was new to him too. How were the kids today? Okay. How was work today? Okay. I folded my hands on my lap. She fumbled with the paper. What do we do now?” A great opportunity missed when the TV broke, a great opportunity for creativity, for communication, for dialogue, for sharing, for talking. But that family wasn't ready. They were not prepared, they weren’t watching. What do we do now?

Christmas passes a lot of people by because they're not ready. They celebrate superficially, but the deeper dimensions, the full impact of the coming to this earth of the Messiah and the coming into your life of the Lord Jesus Christ, the full impact of that meaning escapes so many because they are not ready. They are not watching. 

This Advent let's develop the art of watching. A man was talking to a book collector friend one day. He said, “You know what? In my attic the other day I found an old Bible ratted, torn. I threw it away. Besides that it was even in German and I couldn't could read German.” The book collector asked, “Who published it?” “I can't remember. It was Gluten something or other.” And the collector said. “Not Gutenberg! That could have been one of the first books ever published. Why a copy just recently sold for over $400,000 and you threw yours away? You idiot!” The man said, “Mine wouldn't have been worth anything. It was all ragged and torn and besides some fellow named Martin Luther had scribbled all over it.” Advent  passed him by because of his lack of knowledge. He was not aware of what he held in his hands. 

How many times has Jesus come into your life and you didn't know it? You were unaware because of a lack of knowledge, a lack of seeing with clarity as to what was happening. Read some good books this Advent. Go to the library, read some good books, some of the classics, some of the books that will open your eyes to the Spirit of God. Study the Bible, come to Sunday School. Take advantage of the Bible classes. There is a direct correlation between experiencing the full depths of God's Spirit and knowledge of the Bible, knowledge of how God works. Prepare, so you may see when God comes. 

The Art of watching includes the need to develop the ears. Open my eyes and open my ears that I might hear. A 14 year old boy had a glorious day at school. He gave a talk before an assembly of over 450 people. They applauded him, they gathered around him afterwards, some asked him for his autograph. They asked him questions. They surrounded him with acclaim. He went home that afternoon just giddy with happiness and a sense of accomplishment. He opened the door and his mother greeted him by reminding him he did not make the bed that morning. And he said, “But Mom, let me tell you what happened.” She said, “I know already. You got caught for smoking, right?” Like a mist that evaporates, poof went his beautiful experience. His family missed a time for celebration, a time of great joy, a time for his mother to swell with pride. The family missed a huge blessing because she had her agenda in her head. She had a tape running in her head. She had it all programmed out with her agenda so that she was insensitive to what was going on around her. She could not hear what was being said. She could not feel what the vibrations were. She was out of touch. 

How much of life has passed us by when God has come to us in the relationships we have with other people, and we were insensitive, we did not hear. We develop the art of watching, seeing and hearing when we get our spirits in tune with God. Develop the art of watching by getting your spirit in tune and attuned to his spirit. Get the clutter out of the way. Get the busyness out of the way. Get all those things that come crashing in. Work a path through them so that Christ may come. 

In Luke chapter 21, verse 34, Jesus says, “Be on guard, watch. “ Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and worldly cares, just filling your own needs. So beware, lest you become bloated. Isn't that a graphic image of one’s Spirit? Fat, lazy, indifferent, apathetic, insensitive, bloated. Beware and keep your spirit in fine tune with the Spirit of God. This Advent keep in prayer. Keep the prayer channels open so God may communicate. This Advent begin with Holy Communion. Confess and clear away some of the garbage so Christ may get in. 

This Advent worship regularly. Develop the habits of prayer, study and worship so that when the high moment comes, you are ready, Habits keep us going when we don't feel like it. 

Habits keep us going when enthusiasm has waned. Enthusiasm comes and goes. Enthusiasm has highs and lows but habits keep us hanging in there when we're low, when we don't feel like it anymore. Habits keep us ready so when the high glorious moments come, God may may bless us in a beautiful, magnificent way never before experienced. The Spirit is ready. God is ready. God has a banquet, a feast prepared for all who will come, for all who are ready. Watch. Look, listen. Watch!

© 1976 Douglas I. Norris