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November 29, 2016, 9:34 AM

Light: Waking in the Darkness


Romans 13:11-14  CEB
11 As you do all this, you know what time it is. The hour has already come for you to wake up from your sleep. Now our salvation is nearer than when we first had faith. 12 The night is almost over, and the day is near. So let’s get rid of the actions that belong to the darkness and put on the weapons of light. 13 Let’s behave appropriately as people who live in the day, not in partying and getting drunk, not in sleeping around and obscene behavior, not in fighting and obsession. 14 Instead, dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t plan to indulge your selfish desires. 
 
Matthew 24:36-44 CEB
36 “But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows. 37 As it was in the time of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Human One.[a] 38 In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. 39 They didn’t know what was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. The coming of the Human One[b] will be like that. 40 At that time there will be two men in the field. One will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left.42 Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know what day the Lord is coming.43 But you understand that if the head of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would keep alert and wouldn’t allow the thief to break into his house. 44 Therefore, you also should be prepared, because the Human One[c] will come at a time you don’t know.
 
Waking in the Darkness
 
Remember those summer and early fall mornings, just a few short months ago? The alarm goes off and as you open your eyes light is streaming in the windows—light tinged with the green of the beautiful leaves, or tinged with gold or red from the fall colors. It is easier to get up on those sunny mornings, with warm light gracing our windows, happy birds chirping just outside. It is so much harder to get out of bed in the cold days of late fall and early winter. It is hard to wake up in darkness and find the motivation to get out of bed. The bed is warm and soft. You are nestled down in this comfort; couldn’t we just pull the covers over our head and roll over deeper into the warmth? Climbing out is an act of will some mornings, perhaps most mornings. When we finally manage to pull ourselves out of bed, for many of us, one of the first things we do is reach for the light.
 
It seems that this act of waking up in the dark is pretty universal, for Paul invokes this metaphor in his letter to the Romans in today’s reading. I always find the lectionary readings for the first Sunday of Advent something of an alarm clock going off. We 21st century, American Christians are all snuggled in, wrapped in holiday bliss. Our tummies are full of Thanksgiving feast. Houses begin to light up with Christmas decorations. The 25 days of Christmas is on television with all those beloved holiday favorites. We have our shopping lists, our holiday celebrations, our calendars filled out with concerts and parties. Christmas carols are playing everywhere we go. We are ready to dream of sugar plums, Silent Night, and the Babe in the manger. Ah, comfort. And then the alarm goes off—“Know the time! The hour has come for you to wake up!” shouts Paul. “You don’t know the day the Lord is coming! Be prepared! The Human One will come at a time you don’t know!” yells Jesus.
 
As this twin alarm sounds, it may seem that we are awakening abruptly in the dark. Jesus and Paul seem to be sounding a doom and gloom—the day is near, but you don’t know the hour. Can’t we just pull the holiday lights around us and roll over? However, if we listen more closely to these sounding alarms, what we hear is not a call to wake in the darkness, what we hear is a call to reawaken to our discipleship. Throughout our reading from Romans, Paul invokes the image of morning ritual. “Do you see what time it is? It is time to wake up!” Paul calls to the Romans, and to Christians everywhere. The dark is passing, the new light is dawning. We are living in the season of the dawning light. It is time to get up, get dressed. So what are we to wear? What are we to put on? Paul says, “dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ.” If you are dressed in Jesus, then you are prepared to encounter him, wherever and whenever he might arrive.
 
This wakeup call is of vital importance for all who profess Jesus Christ, and for the world we are called to be in ministry with. It would be easy to slumber on, wrapped in the holiday celebrations the world seeks to sell us, and to lose sight of the true Light of the World. It is a strong temptation to put on holiday blinders, and only see our own family, our own community, our own wants, and our own festivities. The world seeks to seduce us into gazing only at the lights it turns on, all twinkly and sparkly, and not to see what Christ is shining the true light on. But that is not why we celebrate this season. It is not why this is called Christmas; Christ-mass; Christ-worship. Jesus came to be the Light of the World, and to empower those who follow him to shine with the light of Christ as well. Jesus came to be the light that shines in the darkness, the light that the darkness could not overcome or even comprehend.
 
Despite the holiday glitz, or in some cases, because of it, people right now are waking in the darkness. They reach out for light but cannot find it. People are waking to the darkness of grief, loneliness, and brokenness. People are waking to the darkness of hunger, thirst, illness, nakedness, homelessness and imprisonment. People are waking in the darkness of war, violence, oppression and discrimination. People are waking in the darkness of fear, hatred, and division. They are lost in that darkness, unable to find the light that will bring them some hope, some healing, some comfort; a comfort the world’s holiday celebrations can never provide. Jesus and Paul sound the alarm as a call to action. God’s people need the Light of the World, go disciples! Find those who are lost! Shine!
 
Jesus speaks of his return in our Matthew reading. He cautions his followers about being ready to receive him whenever and wherever he pops up. As followers, we do yearn for that time when Jesus’ community, God’s kingdom, is fully realized among us and we dwell in that ultimate peace and light. But in just the next chapter of Matthew, Jesus warns about another way that he comes again, comes among us, in the everyday. “I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and in prison and you visited me. I was a stranger and you welcomed me into your home.” In this season of preparation, this season of Advent, which means coming, Jesus is coming among us again and again and again. Will we see him? Will we respond? Are we prepared?
 
We know what time it is! It is time to reawaken to our calling as followers of Jesus. It is time to carry the dawning light within us to a world lost in darkness. It is time to go where Christ will lead. This Advent we will put on the Lord Jesus and dispel the darkness. Thanks be to God. We are awake! Amen.

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