The day before Thanksgiving, Jeff and I saw the movie Skyfall, the latest James Bond movie. The James Bond character is enduring, though, at first glance, it may be hard to figure out why. The guy is a state-approved British assassin; he’s curt; he’s in the running for the world’s worst womanizer. I wonder if part of the appeal is that things go differently when James Bond is around. He doesn’t really seem to need anything or anyone else; in fact, other people seem just to get in his way.
Hold that thought. Consider the gospel reading according to Luke for today. Jesus describes some of the things that are going to signal that the Son of Man, one of Jesus’ biblical nicknames, is coming again—there will be signs in the sun, moon, stars, and in the roaring seas and waves. When we see these signs, Jesus says, we’ll know that the time has come, the same way we know summer is here when we see the leaves on the fig tree. Watch for these signs, Jesus says. Be “on guard” and “alert” at all times.
At all times… alert… on guard… what? We’ve all done this before--the classic all nighter. Most of us, with the help of caffeine and fear to finish , , sheer excitement if we’re doing something fun with our friends all night, or anxiety due to things like health or employment, most of us can stay at alert and aware, for a short, defined time. But how long can any one of us be alert before crashing—the exact opposite of alert and on guard?
But let’s read again: Jesus said to all who live on the face of the earth aka everyone. Jesus is speaking to a group. When I read this passage again with that perspective, I’m reminded of the fact that, like it or not, believe it or not, we need others. To think we can stay alert and be on guard by ourselves all the time is a recipe for failure. To think we can shoulder lives’ burdens alone is not realistic. Sometimes we fault ourselves for not being good enough when really, we’re okay, we’re just not perfect. Together, a group of committed people can do things that cannot be done by any one person alone, whether that be keeping alert, helping fight HIV/AIDS (since World AIDS day is December 1), making beautiful music, whatever. Together, we can keep our guard up. I know you all know this. But I think sometimes we start thinking that we’re kind of James Bond-ish—that we’re lone rangers. The truth is, and nowhere is this more evident than in the latest movie, even James Bond isn’t James Bond. Even Bond sometimes has help, often from somewhat unlikely corners.
By telling us to be on guard as a group, I wonder if Jesus is trying to give us a gift in a season that can be so wonderful, so glorious, so hectic, so stressful, and so lonely. I wonder if Jesus is saying: “Hang in there. Let someone else help you through if you need to. Help each other and other people. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re alone, that you have to carry your whole life by yourself all the time, or that you can’t make a difference.”
In this Advent season, may we prepare not only ourselves but also others for however it is and whenever it is Christ is going to enter our lives.