The theme for this year’s Advent came to me back in March, and it was one word. “Awaken.” What does it mean to awaken? The dictionary defines “awaken” as to “rouse from sleep; cause to stop sleeping.” I love sleep, and I love waking up feeling rested. However, I can certainly name many times when I was reluctantly roused from sleep by crying babies, stormy weather, phone calls in the middle of the night. I didn’t want to wake up! Whether welcomed or not, awakening has an element of being awakened to a new day or to a new reality around us.
Awakening is also a central theme of the Advent season. “Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). “It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers” (Romans 11:11). These passages and others invite us to consider how we have fallen asleep in our faith and so are not prepared to meet the Lord when he shows up in our lives.
How have our routines of life and faith, our expectations of God and others, put us to sleep? Where have we fallen asleep in our lives, in our ministry, in our beliefs about God so that we no longer see what God is doing in the world? How do we need to be roused from sleep, woken up, so that we are aware of the presence of God in new ways? Advent is a time to wake up!
And then, the unexpected happened. The next Star Wars movie was announced. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m a long-time fan of the series, so my excitement for the theme only grew stronger when I heard the title and watched the trailers. What comes next after defeating the Evil Empire? The Force awakens, of course! Could there be anything truer of our faith as well? The evil forces of sin and death are destroyed in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Advent and Christmas awaken us, rouse us from sleep, to a new day, a new world, a new life around us. We tell the story of a baby born long ago to awaken to our longing for a savior. We remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to awaken hope for new life in and through us. Awaken reminds us that we don’t just look to the past as if that is the story of our faith. We ask, when will Jesus come again? When will Jesus finally finish the work he started at the resurrection, the work God has been doing since the beginning of time – the creation of a world in which love and peace and justice reign forever?
So this Advent, let’s wake up together! How have we fallen asleep to God’s presence in our lives? How do we need to be roused from sleep to be renewed in our faith, to be opened up to something more in life and faith, to discover new possibilities for grace, generosity, peace, forgiveness, action? Asking these questions is like an alarm clock going off that rouses us from sleep. Awakening to the answers is the life we seek this season as we wait and pray for the coming of our Savior and Lord. Wake up! Keep awake! God is coming!