In college, when it came to papers, I functioned best as a procrastinator. Assign me the paper at the beginning or middle of the semester, the result was the same. It would get done at midnight or later the night before it was due. Maybe I worked better under pressure, I don’t know. But I always put off doing those papers till the last minute. I was a paper writer procrastinator.

Perhaps you know that in your own life, around different things. Some people are:

• Grocery shopping procrastinators – as long as there was one banana left in the house and one glass of milk, why bother going to the store.
• Grass cutting procrastinators – “Hey, I can still see the top of the soccer ball, so the yard doesn’t need mowing yet.”
• Laundry procrastinators – “Until I whistle and the socks come and put themselves on my feet, I can use them another day.”
• Christmas light removing procrastinators – why take them down when you just have to put them up again next year? (guilty as charged this year)

And so it goes. There are many areas of life where, though you pay a price when the deadline approaches in lost sleep and extra anxiety, you can get away with putting things off.

However, we also know that there are some areas where we can’t procrastinate. If you want to have a successful marriage, you work now at being a faithful and considerate friend and a generous and forgiving person. We don’t marry people who are being unfaithful to us during the courtship, expecting that the act of walking down the aisle will change them. It doesn’t work that way. Likewise, we know that if you want to have a successful job review, then you don’t start showing up on time for the first time, three days before your meeting. So too, with running a marathon – unless you begin training months ahead of time, you will never finish the course.

We know, in our heads, the need to live now what we want to happen in the future in many areas of life, yet, sometimes it seems that in our spiritual journey, we act as if we can cram for that event. Not so, says the readings from this first Sunday of Advent and today’s gospel. That day will come like a trap.

If we want to be ready to meet the Lord whose coming, according to the Gospel, will be marked by ” signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves,” we cannot start preparing when we see those signs. Our preparing has to be taking place today as we strive to be faithful Christians. I was reminded of that in a powerful way on Thursday as I was called to the house of a good friend whose brother was found dead in his bed when he did not report to work. There was no warning, no advance sickness, just the day when the Lord called him home. For Bob, there would be no opportunity for cramming.

Jesus warns us, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life.” The first (carousing and drunkenness) invites procrastination. The second creates such tension within us that our ‘to do list’ never gets around to the important things. We work so hard to accomplish the urgent, the things that ring and whirr and buzz in our days, that we postpone those things that can put us in contact with God and that nourish our spiritual life. We miss the important because of the urgent.

Those who will be ready for the day of the Lord are those who are living this day with the Lord. The best way to be certain the future does not take us by surprise is to concentrate on the present.

As we begin this season of Advent – I have just one question for you – How will you use this season to study for THE final exam – the day you are called home to God? What practice, what addition, what ‘waiting’ kind of choice will you make to be ready for the coming of the son of man?

You see, there is no cramming for the kingdom of heaven, just the steady work of discipleship…