The science of sleep is revealing. Before drawing the shade, if you strum a guitar, your fingers will continue learning the chord progressions in bed. Between the sheets, mysterious caverns in the brain open up for cleaning, removing neurotoxins that can lead to Alzheimer’s. And with our eyes closed, the day’s events are catalogued, creating an index of memories that become the history of our lives. So get your eight hours.
When the Apostle Paul wrote his most enduring Epistle, he too was interested in sleep. But not the restorative benefits discovered by science but instead the spiritual lethargy of the new Christians in Rome who kept hitting the snooze button.
What pastoral concern is Paul addressing?
Romans 13:11-14 11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
The hypocrisy of being a person of faith and still acting out.
Christianity isn’t about pointing out everyone else’s faults, but dealing with our own.
Salvation isn’t a distant possibility, but a present reality that requires our choosing.
After the air turned cold and the leaves had fallen, a family of three in Charlotte always setup they’re plastic Nativity scene out in the front yard. There was the thatched roof stable out by the mailbox, the shinning star hanging from a tree limb, the humped camel with his mussel in the grass, the young Mary and the obedient Joseph gathered around the baby lit up by an extension cord from the porch. Year after year, the precocious son, Cameron, watched his parents drag these figurines out of the tool shed after Thanksgiving and pile them back in the day after Christmas. Cameron, a precocious boy, finally stopped his parents one December 26th as they were unplugging the scene and asked, “Daddy and Mommy, why do we always put Jesus away every year?”
Why is he only the seasonal savior of twinkling lights on Main Street and holiday radio stations in the car, an excuse to splurge on Black Friday? Why we continually put Jesus away is a question that confronts every person of faith. For Paul, his pastoral letter to the Romans was his response to the early Christians, to Cameron and to all of us.
We revel in the darkness because we can fool ourselves into believing that our shameful behaviors go unseen. We tip back the bottle of inebriation because all of us like to get intoxicated by the sound of our own voices. We indulge in pleasures of the skin because it’s more gratifying to treat the body like a tent rather than a temple. In our shady bedrooms, many of us have gone nocturnal, far too practiced in our shadow sides.
But Advent, the month long vigil leading up to Christmas, is Christianity’s alarm clock. The season of light when the candles of hope, peace, joy and love burn the brightest. When we rub our eyes and shake off the night in excited anticipation of the One who is born again and again and again into our lives.
So wake up! Salvation is near. God’s love is coming wrapped in diapers, a child of flesh and blood that incarnates in our human experience.
Wake up! Daybreak is immanent. The sunrise is upon us, calling all to receive the light, to point to the light, to share the light, to be the light.
Wake up! The Lord is waiting to be worn. Lace up the boots of justice. Put on the big boy pants of forgiveness. Shoulder the coat of costly discipleship.
Wake up Church! We’ve been asleep far too long. In the name of Jesus the Christ, the Light of the World, it’s time to get out of bed.