Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent, Day 9: Stay Awake

But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

- 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8

Keep awake. Stay awake. Pay attention, because important things are happening.

Paul urges us to stay awake in this letter, and Jesus urges us to stay awake in some of his later parables. In the earliest days of the church, it seems that most Christians believed that the world was about to come to an end. It turns out they were wrong about that, but this doesn't nullify the command. Staying awake leads to hope. Paying attention prepares us to step up when our gifts are called for. We are not just to sleep through this life, but engage with it as citizens of God's Kingdom, keeping the priorities of God's Kingdom always in mind: justice, mercy, grace, love.

Are you wearing a safety pin? Don't be one of those who stand by idly when bullying occurs. Pay attention. Use nonviolent direct action. Engage the targeted person rather than the bully. Change the game. Ask the targeted person what she or he needs. And then disengage if that's what the person wants. Be ready to sacrifice for the sake of another person's well-being. Stay awake. Those who would celebrate a political victory by seeking out targets to bully aren't sleeping.

Yesterday the Army Corps of Engineers refused to allow work to continue on the Dakota Access Pipeline. There was a further announcement that there would be an environmental impact study for a potential reroute. It was cause for rejoicing, for the hard work and sacrifices of the water protectors had paid off. I watched as a number of my clergy colleagues visited Standing Rock and prayed with the protesters there over the past couple months. Nonviolent direct action works.

But that doesn't mean it's time to stop paying attention to Standing Rock. Who's to say that they won't just pick up the work again under the new administration? Stay awake. Those who put money above treaties aren't sleeping.

A few years ago I enjoyed creating this mashup. Remember Mary Poppins singing Jane and Michael to sleep with the delightful and ironic lullaby "Stay Awake"? By adding an echo effect and layering it over Sufjan Stevens' weird instrumental "Year of the Sheep," I think I've managed to suck all the irony out of it. Stay awake, my friends.

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