I’m feeling really sluggish today. It can’t be that I didn’t sleep well. It isn’t that I’m stressed. It is likely the result of my first fall in a decade, the histamine power of that classic fall forest-floor smell. No matter what it is, I can tell today is going to be one of those days where I have to actively work at getting myself to do anything productive. I would much rather space out scrolling through memes trolling the University of Tennessee Football debacle than come up with words to say about St. Andrew or a rough outline for my Advent teaching series. As I read Sunday’s Gospel lesson through my droopy eyelids, tempted to pick up my phone, Jesus’ words hit me right between my itchy eye.
We may have switched Gospels for the start of a new Church Year, but our lesson is still situated on Tuesday in Holy Week. Jesus, knowing what is to come, is preparing his disciples for not only his second coming, but his initial departure. Things are fixin’ to get pretty awful, and being awake and alert, able to remember that which he has already clearly taught them, will prove helpful. Of course, we who know the story, know that staying awake will proved difficult. On Thursday night, after supper and a few glasses of wine, Jesus will ask them to pray in the Garden while he goes off for some one-on-one time with the Father, and they will fail. Their eyes will get heavy, and they will fall asleep.
But this isn’t just a literal word for sleepy disciples, it is also a metaphorical word for all of us who continue to follow the resurrected and ascended Jesus. We have to sleep, our bodies require it. Staying awake, as the Season of Advent begins, means putting aside the temptations and distractions and focusing on the Kingdom of God. It means living as though Jesus will return tomorrow, expecting us to be actively engaged in the work of his Kingdom. It means caring for the poor, protecting the environment, making room for the marginalized to have a voice, and creating space for all God’s children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
In a world full of distraction, technological, physiological, and otherwise, it can be difficult to keep awake and stay alert, but it is God’s will for us that we put aside the devices and desires of our own hearts and follow after the one who will come at an unexpected hour.