Magazine article The Christian Century

Kept Awake by Love

Magazine article The Christian Century

Kept Awake by Love

Article excerpt

IN SPITE OF MY best intentions, somewhere around Halloween my ability to stay on top of things begins to unravel. It gets more and more difficult to wake up before the sun and harder to meet all the demands of each day, or even of the previous day. As things left undone accumulate and the hours of daylight diminish, a kind of lethargy sets in. I can feel it seep into the lives of everyone in my household, making it hard to start preparing homework or grade papers or cook a healthy meal. Even our cats seem to feel it, preferring to remain curled up on the couch like little cat doughnuts rather than bounding to the door to greet US.

So when the first candle is lit and the voices of Advent sing out across the church--Wake up! It's time to begin again!--it feels like the most graceful invitation I have ever heard.

This, to me, is one of the greatest gifts of Christian life: that God never tires of offering us the opportunity to begin again. Advent reminds us that the kingdom announced by John the Baptist, the kingdom that has "come near," is not like a train we either catch on its way through town or miss forever. The kingdom of heaven is more like a comet that blazes regularly into view, lighting up the sky and taking our breath away.

It's hard not to view time as an oppressive force, something to work against, something to stay ahead of, something to manage. But surely that is not God's intention; surely God means for time to be a sign of God's hope in us, God's confidence that we can change. With each new year, God extends to us a fresh opportunity to become the people God intends us to be, to try again to be guided by love and mercy, to crave justice, be present to others, and to live fully awake to God's presence. As one year gives away to another, we are invited to give way--to seek forgiveness, or to offer it, and to turn toward the mountain of God where weapons of war are reshaped as tools of human flourishing and violent ways are unlearned.

The prophetic voices of Advent reach us in our lethargy and urge us to wake up and get moving, to travel inward toward greater understanding of the world inside us and outward toward a deeper engagement with the world all around us. In Advent, we are called to beat our swords into plowshares and to wait in patience. …

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