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Advent: Staying Awake

“Awake O’ sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine upon you.” – Ephesians 5:14

A few days ago I was getting out to read at a coffee shop when I said to Liz, “All I want to do is take a nap.” I decided to get in the car and forced myself out of the house and it wasn’t minutes later while rounding the corner of Villa Rd. and 99W when I saw a strange but brave street evangelist holding a sign that read the above verse. It stuck with me and continues to stick with me as we enter the season of Advent – Awake O’ Sleeper…and Christ will shine upon you.

As much as Protestant anxiety has tried to convince us that the spiritual life is one we can find if we search hard enough the truth remains that we can do little more than stay awake.

Advent is the season where we wait for God to come to us. We see in this season the reality that it is God who is coming toward us, finding us, looking for us, healing us, loving us but most of us have been taught through words or practices in the church and culture that God is slow, slow to anger sure, but slow to hear, slow to act, slow to move us or those around us. Most of all he’s passive and he must be urged with our practices, our worship, our time, money, energy, sleep and so we hop on the treadmill of spiritual formation believing deep down that the only way we are going to get somewhere with God is if we work for it, always increasing our speed and intensity because that is what is required of those seeking God.

Today, a new friend of mine, Fr. Sean Flannery of Church of the Vine here in Newberg shared this quote with me, “The priest must order his life in such a way to be prepared to be seized by God.” I mentioned Protestant anxiety above and if you’ve grown up protestant this anxiety is probably in your DNA and it directly impacts how you think about God and how you think God thinks about you (as well as everything else). The truth is that Catholics (and therefore Anglicans) are much more comfortable with a God who comes, not because he’s been provoked but because he loves us, he wants to heal us, he wants to find us and wants to be with us.

This Advent what would it be like to loose the anxiety of doing enough to provoke God to move and we simply stayed awake to our lives? The truth is Emmanuel is coming and there is nothing we can do about it. We can’t make him come faster, or with greater intensity, but what we can do is allow the possibility that if we stay awake, even if what we want to do is fall asleep, we will discover the God who is already with us, Emmanuel.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen,