Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. Matthew 24:42
You can find the full text for Romans 13:11-14 and Matthew 24:36-44 by following these links: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=252389563 and http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=252389605
So it is pretty clear that those who put our lectionary together wanted us to get a particular message this Sunday: STAY AWAKE! But what exactly were they trying to get at? Don't sleep so much? Drink some coffee? Probably not. Some have interpreted these passages to mean that we need to be constantly preparing and vigilant for the day when the end of the world comes. I, however, find myself heading in a little different direction with these passages.
Throughout the centuries, it is clear that if there is a date when the entire world will end, or if Jesus is coming a second time, no human being has any idea when it will be. Individuals and groups have been predicting the end since the day Jesus came the first time. God clearly is not filling us in on the details. However, there is one end that each of us can be absolutely certain about, our own individual endings. We may not know the exact year, day or hour, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that somewhere between the day each of us was born and at most 100 years later each of our lives on this earth will end. In the whole scheme of things, even 100 years is not a very long amount of time. After all, the earth has been around for billions of years. Our individual lifetimes are but a speck, maybe even half a speck, on the earth's timeline.
I am imagining that you are saying to yourself right now, "Well Happy Advent and Merry Christmas to you too Suzannah humbug Scrooge. I don't want to think about my mortality right now. Would you just leave me alone." I get it. I don't like to think about my mortality too. But the thing is this, if we don't think about your mortality from time to time, if we aren't reminded on occasion that we will not live forever, then we sort of fall asleep. It is one of the ironies of life that truly embrace our lives, the time we have on this earth, we have to embrace our deaths. In order to truly be awake we have to wake up to the reality of our limitations, the reality of our mortality.
Think about how much time we waste in our lives. Now, I have not turned into an advocate for increased productivity here. I am not trying to send a message that to be awake we have to work harder and do more. As a matter of fact, for many of us, being fully awake to our lives might mean working less and dong less. After all, as the saying goes, we were created to be human beings not human doings. What I want all of us to think about today is how much time we waste in doing things, feeling things and thinking things that don't matter.
I invite you to do a little experiment over this next week. Buy yourself a small notebook, or use a note taking app on your Smartphone. 3-5 times during the day stop for about 5 minutes and reflect on what was going through your mind when you took your break. Were you thinking about something from the past? Were you thinking about something that hasn't happened yet? And write these things down. Then set the notebook and those things aside and spend the time that is left just noticing what is going on with you right in that moment. Where are you? What can you see, hear, touch, taste and feel? What are you grateful for right then and there? Take just those few minutes to be fully awake to your life, to your present. After all as the saying goes, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today is a gift, that's why it is called the present." (Bil Keane)
I have a theory that one of the reasons why time seems to speed up as we get older is because children naturally are awake to the present, but as we get older we live more and more in the past or the future. As we get older we become more and more numb to what is actually happening to us in the moment and we begin to walk through life like we are asleep. Time appears to go by faster when we are sleeping. I think God knows this, and God, the One who wants only abundance and life for each of us, is calling us to wake up to our lives before it is too late. God is calling each of us to wake up, because none of us knows when the end will come.
May this Advent be for you a time of awakening that you might truly live your life.
Another song for you to listen to: