“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
In our daily lives, what are we watching for most? Often, it seems that we are watching for… ourselves.
And why not? In the public square of a highly connected world, the affirmation and adulation that comes with being an “influencer” is intoxicating. Never has it felt more important to be seen, to be liked, to be what the world pays attention to. We are watching not for God, but for the opportunities to increase our follower counts and our sense of self-satisfaction.
With that in mind, I feel a tug of despair when I read Mark’s exhortation, as if we already are immersed in the dark skies that he writes about. When despair creeps in, I remind myself to calm my spirit, shift my gaze and “watch for the whale.”
In 2017, my colleague, Tim, invited me to travel with a class of Hope students to Alaska for a May Term off-campus study program. Every morning, a group of us rose early and walked together, in search of a place to begin the day with prayer. In Seward, we found a favorite spot on the rocky shoreline of Resurrection Bay. One dawn, we sat there, eyes fixed on the still water in the early morning light, lamenting the absence of whales in the bay that day. As we finished our prayer, Colton, one of the trip leaders, jokingly added, “Jesus, if you’re listening, please let us see a whale.” We hardly had a moment to chuckle when a humpback whale suddenly broke the water’s surface with a dramatic full breach. We screamed and cheered with delight.
I still feel incredulous at the perfection of that moment. In the beauty of Alaska, we were carefully watching for God’s presence — in ways that are hard to replicate today, in the daily grind of ordinary life. But to this day, when I find myself becoming too distracted or discouraged to recognize God’s presence, I tell myself, “Watch for the whale.”
God shows up in ways big and small. This Advent, remember to watch!
Jennifer Fellinger is vice president of strategic initiatives at Hope College.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.