Advent 1

“And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” Mark 13:37


I am not a church-going person, unless you count sitting outside watching the birds as church. (I do. I call it the Church of Outside.) And so it’s always a bit of a surprise to them to learn that I do practice certain religious rituals. Primarily, I like to observe Lent and Advent. At least, I do so in my own way. I find it comforting. Like going home, in a way. Home within myself.

This year, the Episcopal Church is taking to social media with a program to bring a kind of daily practice to our media lives. They’re encouraging folks to share an image or post related to the #EpiscopalAdvent word of the day. Today’s word is “awake” and I’ve already posted my image to my Twitter. The word comes from the readings for Advent 1, which ends with the quote I have above.

The word “awake” is rich with metaphorical meaning, and is perfect for sparking some meditative musing. The first thought that comes to my mind is the social justice movement on Twitter and the tag #staywoke, as a response to the building anger about injustices faced by people of color, and particularly black men, in the United States. It was reignited after the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.

True justice requires that we all are awakened from the slumber of ignorance and realize that each of us has a role to play in righting any and all injustices. Privilege is easy. It allows those of us who are not directly affected to ignore injustice, as though we were sleeping through life.

The word “awake” also holds special personal meaning for me, on both a philosophical and a physiological level. Physically, my ‘tired monster’ is back again, and I’m sleeping far more than I would like to. While I cannot just wake up from that, it is a timely reminder to check my routine for any possible causes, including making sure I’m taking my vitamins consistently and looking for ways to include more physical exercise.

Philosophically, the word “awake” reminds me to stay present in my encounters. Coincidentally, this image popped up on my Google Plus feed this morning.

It is a timely reminder to stay present in all my dealings — remain awake, in other words. As we slide right into the height of the Silly Season, we will all be pulled in a zillion directions, and have seemingly never-ending to-do lists (shopping, cooking, cleaning, working, visiting, eating, etc.), and the rush to get it all done will make it seem as though we cannot waste even a second of time to smile at the store clerk or to let a confused driver make a mistake.

Already this past weekend, I began to notice more tension and frustration in the people around me at the store or on the freeway. What would happen if we all stopped running to someplace else, and took a deep breath and just stayed calm and in the moment? Maybe we wouldn’t have the “perfect present” for so-and-so, but maybe we would have a more perfect present.

During the holiday season, I have a personal policy of giving everyone a second benefit of the doubt. I already try to give everyone a first one, but it seems that this time of year, many people need another one. To be honest, by doing this I’m actually being quite selfish, believe it or not. I’m saving myself from getting angry or frustrated by what I choose to believe is merely a momentary lapse in judgment by someone who just cut me off, twice, in traffic headed to the grocery store.

But I am also trying to create the world that I want to live in. By choosing to see their rudeness as simply an outcome of the overall social stresses, and not as a personal failing, I am trying to remember that we are all fallible humans relying on the grace of God. I am choosing to see these people as how they will be, rather than how they appear right now. I am trying remember that God has left us in charge of this world, and that, like the servants who were left in charge of the household in that passage from Mark above, we will be called to account for how we have managed things.


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