Dear Friends in Christ –
We discovered last Sunday that one of the watchwords for Advent is, well, watchfulness. The refrain we heard in Mark 13 alerting us to the coming again of Christ was “stay awake.” We talked about how being watchful and staying awake is more than just standing by idly, looking heavenward, waiting for Jesus to descend. There is a kind of active waiting, that keeps us living in time altogether differently – by loving the least, the last, the hard-to-love in Jesus’ name; by not hogging our stuff, and sharing ourselves and our abundance and living generously; by not holding grudges and forgiving others with Jesus’ help; by dealing with abuse and injustice, and caring for refugees.
By the way, this is one reason why I don’t get all worked up about everybody saying “Merry Christmas” again. Although I love saying “Merry Christmas!” I just don’t think this is what Jesus came for. As one pastor put it, being Christian (staying awake) has less to do with the words we use for a holiday greeting than the acts of love we do on a daily basis.
Last Sunday after worship, later in the day, I was pondering this Advent theme of “watchfulness”, I also thought of the not uncommon occurrence of people falling asleep in church (um…it might have happened that very day). And it occurred to me that, ironically, falling asleep in church (and anywhere else for that matter) might just be an example of staying awake! Because, think about it: sometimes what prevents us from falling asleep is anxiety and worry. (I know this from personal experience). But falling asleep is a way of letting go, a way of trusting God. And trusting God is a way of “staying awake” to who God is, of being alert to God’s promises.
So, there you have it: sometimes falling asleep is a way of staying awake!
On the Second Sunday of Advent this week our sermon text is Mark 1:1-8. Most scholars agree that Mark is the first Gospel to be written. No one had really ever written “a Gospel” before Mark; he pretty much invented the genre. So what’s interesting then is Mark has absolutely nothing to say about the birth of Christ! There is no Christmas in Mark. And where Mark does begin might make you wonder, “Is that any way to begin a Gospel?” Take a look, and we’ll talk about it together on Sunday…
Grace and peace!