Posted by: Titus Presler | November 27, 2011

Watching for Signs: Meditation for Advent I Sunday

Watching for Signs

“Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”  So says Jesus to his anxious disciples (Matthew 24:42).  “Keep awake” is another translation for that simple and arresting advice: “Watch!”

Watching is activist.  In watching we’re not only awake for whatever may occur, but we’re on the lookout for something we expect, or at least hope for: A gesture from an unconscious loved one in an intensive care unit.  The sound of a far-off automobile on a country road where our car has broken down.  A hint of appreciation from a difficult colleague.  All these are signs.

When we watch, we’re watching for signs.  Signs are things we watch for because they are the leading edge of a larger reality we await.  We may await recovery, rescue, or reconciliation.  We may await fulfillment, recognition, or love.  We long for so many things.  We need signs that they are on the way, or even already present.

Longing marks us as human.  Longing is painful because it highlights lack.  Longing is glorious because it looks beyond what is to what can be or might be.  In that way our longing is itself a sign to us.  A sign of what we deeply need in order to be fulfilled.  A sign of something that might happen in the world because our longing moves us to work for it.

On this first Sunday of Advent, let’s stand still and take stock: What do I long for?  What signs of that am I watching for?  The questions can move beyond the I to a we: the we of our friendships and families, the we of our towns and cities, the we of our communities of faith.  What do we long for?  What signs are we watching for?

And then ask, Might God be active in our longing?  Might God inspire our longing?  How might God be at work to fulfill our longing?

This reflection is excerpted from Titus Presler’s booklet of meditations, “Alert for Signs: Seeing and Praying through Advent,” published by and available from Forward Movement (

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