Matthew 24: 36-46, Romans 13:11-14
Both the gospel reading and the Epistle reading command us to “wake up!’
This is not an easy thing to do with the sun coming up later each morning and the days often gray.
Besides that, it is cold outside! I much prefer my toasty warm bed!
Who wants to wake up??
But the alarm clock goes off. Wake up!
Does anybody jump out of bed when the alarm goes off the first time?? Not me!
How many of you hit the snooze button?
Do you hit it more than once?
Do you know when sunrise is tomorrow morning?
7:10! This time of year the sun rises almost a minute later each day.
The latest sunrise will be 7:29 on December 28.
There will be a week of 7:29 sunrises before the days slowly grow longer!
Besides the daily challenge of waking up on these dark cold mornings there is also the cumulative effect of the long upper Midwest winters.
It manifests itself as Season Affective Disorder or SAD.
With the unrelenting cold and darkness, one can feel depressed, hopeless, anxious, tired or sluggish, and not interested in the things that usually bring pleasure.
It is more than the winter blues. A person with Seasonal Affective Disorder wants to do what our evolutionary ancestors did– hibernate!
Fortunately Seasonal Affective Disorder is treatable with light therapy, medication and psychotherapy.
Simple things like getting outside early in the day, getting regular exercise and being in the natural light make a huge difference.
And, a midwinter vacation to a warm and sunny place is a good thing, too!
So, let’s face it! Waking up and living in the Wisconsin winter is challenging both physically and mentally. These challenges can take a toll spiritually as well.
Our mental, physical and spiritual well-being are all intertwined.
There are the demands of the Christmas season.
The expectations of family near and far, the pressure of Christmas shopping, too many parties, too many activities, too much to eat and drink.
One can easily become sluggish and lethargic, overwhelmed and depressed.
In this context, perhaps the command to “wake up” is a gift!
Hey, wake up…take control of your life, be clear about what matters during the craziness of our culture’s holiday season. Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.
“Wake up”, this is how we begin the journey of Advent.
Jesus tells us to keep awake because we do not know the day of the coming of the Son of Man.
Paul tells us that now is the moment to wake from sleep. In other words, the alarm clock has gone off.
Jesus refers to the archetypal story of Noah building the ark.
While everyone else was eating, drinking and being merry, Noah found favor with God.
Noah is the one instructed by God to build an ark.
Noah must have been the laughing stock of all who saw him building a huge boat nowhere near water. How absurd he must have appeared.
The laughter would have stopped when the rains came and didn’t let up.
Jesus ends his conversation with his disciples by asking them who is the faithful and wise servant.
Noah is awake, he is the faithful servant.
Paul uses the imagery of night and day.
The night is far gone, the day is near.
It is time to wake up, get up and get dressed.
Put on the armor of light, put on Jesus Christ.
We live along both the horizontal and vertical axis.
The horizontal axis is the normal activity of our lives. It is includes the pressures of the holiday season. It is all our obligations, preoccupations, agendas, etc. etc. It is the ego in all its glory.
The vertical axis is our relationship to the divine, our relationship to Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom. We travel along this axis as we commit ourselves to the spiritual disciplines that are fruitful for us, or in Paul’s words, when we put on Jesus Christ.
As we wake up, we move along the vertical axis, deeper into the mystery of the Holy.
My husband Dave took the bus home from work on Tuesday, August 23, 2005 and overheard two meteorologists talking.
They were discussing how the abnormally high temperature of the Gulf Stream was feeding the strength of the coming hurricane.
These two guys were particularly concerned that there was no talk of evacuation. They accurately predicted when the hurricane would make landfall.
You know what happened; Katrina swept through New Orleans, doing enormous damage and causing unimaginable suffering. Much of that suffering could have been prevented if an evacuation had occurred.
Salvation is nearer to us, says Paul, than when we became believers.
The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
We are not awake in the shopping malls or Walmart. We are asleep, lulled by the snares of consumerism
As we cultivate a capacity discern the mysterious movement of the Spirit, we wake up.
As we learn to live fully in the present, rather than the past or future, we wake up.
As our hearts are touched, we wake up.
As we grow in wisdom and understanding, we wake up.
When we wake up each morning, we get dressed.
Paul instructs us to put on the clothes of light, put on Jesus Christ.
As we wake up spiritually, we become the light shining in the darkness.
Wake up! The son of Man is coming.
I can’t tell you exactly what the coming of the Son of Man is, it is a mystery. Just as our physical death is a mystery.
But, I do know I want to live my life fully awake. Awake to its mystery,
Awake to its joys and its sorrows,
Awake to its surprises and ordinariness.
Advent is a gift, it is the invitation to wake up and live fully and with intention.
I will close with a poem by Mary Oliver. It is titled “When Death Comes”. One could substitute “When the Son of Man comes”
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
Sisters and brothers,
We know what time it is,
Now the moment for us to wake up from our sleep.