This Sunday begins the Season of Advent, a truly beautiful time in our lives—individually as people of faith and corporately as a church family. The beauty and blessing of Advent, I believe, come when we give ourselves to the difficult work of waiting.

I am by nature an impatient person. Waiting is very difficult for me—especially waiting with nothing to do. Lucky for us, Jesus gives us something to do while we wait—we stay alert and awake. Three times in Mark 13, Sunday’s Gospel lesson, Jesus tells his followers to stay alert and awake.

Ashley, not taking her Papa’s advice to stay awake.

When my kids were much younger, if they fell asleep in the car, even for just a minute, they would not take a nap when we got back home. And if they fell asleep in the car close to bedtime, it was going to be a long night.

Does this sound familiar? “Ella, try to stay awake! Ashley, we’re almost home. Don’t close your eyes yet—you can take a nap when you get home. Do you want to sing a song?” Knowing what’s best, Andrea and I encouraged them to stay awake. We knew that something better (in this case a longer, more restful sleep) was in store.

That’s the word Jesus has for the followers with him that day on the Mount of Olives. Jesus offers here a flicker of hope for a desperate situation. Something better is in store if they would just stay alert and awake.

During Advent, we remain alert to what God is doing in our world. We prayerfully seek out the work of Christ, even in our own neighborhoods, and participate in it. We do not wait as a people with nothing to do, we wait while continuing to do the good work God has called us to—feeding the hungry, serving the poor, lifting the brokenhearted, and loving the unloved.

We do not wait in a sluggish stupor—we stay alert and awake.

Written by Daniel Glaze