Wake up, wake up. Time to get up. You’ll miss your bus.
Wake up, wake up. You’ll be late for work.
Wake up, wake up. Time’s a wasting.
My sister-in-law got a call in the middle of the night several months ago. She was on the list for a heart transplant and one became available. I can imagine her waking my brother and saying, “wake up, they have a heart. We need to go to the hospital right away.”
Other times a call comes in the middle of the night with bad news:
a death, an accident, a shooting, an overdose.
Wake up, wake up, Paul writes.
The night is far past, and the day is at hand.
Strange words to hear as nights are getting longer and days shorter.
One friend suggested that the lights that everyone strings this time of year
must be our way of coping with the onset of dark, long nights.
Another said we just need to make it till the winter solstice when the light returns.
Wake up, wake up, we hear in Matthew.
No one knows the day or the hour.
Christ’s coming will be unexpected, a surprise.
So keep awake.
Be watchful, vigilant, attentive, mindful.
Life is fragile.
Cherish every moment.
Make the most of every day.
I always find it a bit humorous to talk about staying awake
at the time of year that our bodies want to hibernate.
Our circadian rhythm signals that darkness is for sleep.
We may find ourselves a bit more sluggish or even sad (SAD) this time of year.
Some will need to find ways to let their bodies experience more light these days.
In an age of artificial light and increasing screen time,
how good that circadian science is now being embraced by some airlines and hotels.
Jet lag happens when we travel too fast for the brain to adjust.
One sleep expert said that nearly all species have an internal or circadian clock which
has evolved for us to interact with the outside world.
And let’s not forget the irony about all this “wake up” talk
when plenty people today don’t get enough sleep.
Sometimes it’s because folks think sleep is a waste of time.
And then there’s insomnia due to overly active brains
or other mysterious reasons we can’t even begin to understand.
When our Northern Hemisphere ancestors heard the Advent wake-up call,
it corresponded with what was going on in creation.
December’s darkness and cold stirred their fears.
The sun kept lowering in the sky.
The crops had died, it seemed.
We, too, notice the bare trees and wilted plants.
The early Fathers of the church saw the ebbing of light and heat
as a foreshadowing of the time when life as we know it will end.
Isaiah urges us to walk toward the light—
a place where weapons of war are transformed to implements of peace:
swords into plowshares.
As we struggle with gun violence, hate crimes, and even ethnic cleansing,
we stream toward the mountain of God
to learn a new teaching, the way of Torah—
God’s promised day
when all live together in harmony and equity and justice.
And not in some other world, but on this very earth.
And now for something a little different:
consider a wake-up call from our gospel that debunks the rapture!
It is so troubling that we hear the language about
one person being taken and the other being left
through the lens of rapture theology.
You don’t want to be the one left behind, right?
But wake up, I say.
As I learned this week, think about the days of Noah.
The ones taken were the ones destroyed by the flood.
The ones left were Noah and his family.
So . . . we want to be the ones left on this earth we love,
not the ones raptured away.
Wake up, wake up.
Wake up, wake up.
As Paul says, the day is at hand.
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s baptismal language, indeed!
Through the resurrection, this is already the new age!
God clothes us day by day with hope, with mercy, with everything we need.
We have much to learn from the natural world during Advent
and at every time of the year, if we are honest.
Wake up, wake up, I want to say to the goldfish and koi that live in the pond at our cabin
northwest of the city.
As the darkness lengthens and the air chills,
they hover at the murky bottom of the pond,
barely moving, dormant for a season.
We have a heater that will keep the ice from completely freezing over
but it is intriguing to wonder what’s going on with them,
how they don’t need to eat,
and how they’re sleeping away the winter.
For some African Americans, to stay “woke”
is to take a stand, to be active, to challenge injustice.
Pastor Lenny Duncan wants us to rethink
how we talk about darkness and light during Advent.
We dare not simply equate darkness and blackness with sin and evil
and light and whiteness with purity.
So Advent is a wake-up call not only to watch our language,
but to love and treasure the darkness.
Gayle Boss developed a unique Advent calendar for her children.
She was tired of the ones that only featured candy or Christmas nativity figures.
It was Advent after all. Use some restraint!
So her Advent calendar has an animal in each window.
She has written stories about each creature’s experience of winter.
A snake, a loon, a wild goose, a bear, a doe, a crow.
(Take a look: All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings by Gail Boss.)
But it’s the one about the painted turtle that I love most and I’ve mentioned before.
At some point in the fall as the water and air cools,
at some precise moment an ancient bell signals in the turtle brain:
take a deep breath.
The turtle swims for the warmer muck bottom, buries herself.
She pulls herself into her shell.
Encased in darkness, settled in deep stillness,
her heart slows, almost to stopping.
For up to six months she will not draw air into her lungs.
Then . . . she waits.
It is her work and it is not easy.
To escape would take more energy than she has
and it would suffocate her.
As Gail beautifully writes,
“Though she is dissolving,
every stressed particle of her stays focused on the silver bead of utter quietude.
It’s this radical simplicity that will save her.
And deep within it, at the heart of her stillness,
something she has no need to name,
but we something we might call trust:
that one day, yes, the world will be warm again,
and with it, her life.”
While you wait and watch and wonder,
wake up, wake up.
Christ is coming soon.
Wake up, wake up!
Christ comes this day in bread and wine.
Christ comes this day in community.
Christ comes this day in dark dormant stillness.