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Advent I: Wake, Awake

In 1599, Philip Nicolai’s beautiful Advent hymn put it this way: “Wake, Awake, for night is flying.” In 2016, Twitter hashtags tell you to “stay woke”. Both of these phrases are calling for you to be aware of what’s going on around you, to open your eyes to what’s happening. You need to be aware of some reality, and then respond to it.

We’re currently living in a culture that loves to raise awareness. All around you are different causes and concerns clamoring for your attention and for your wallet, and there’s no way that you can stay awake long enough to hear each voice, much less respond to each one. You need to tune some voices out and teach yourself what to sleep through and what to wake up for. For Christians, Jesus is not just one more voice among the many. Since Jesus is your Lord, then when He speaks, you listen to His voice above all others. And this is what Jesus is saying: “Stay awake.”

Staying awake begins with simply being aware that Jesus is coming, but it doesn’t end there. No, if you’re awake to the reality of God, then you’ll live your life differently. If you know the thief is coming, you keep a lookout. It is not enough simply to make be aware of something; you also need to be moved to respond. The difference is the difference between hitting the snooze button and getting out of bed. And so Jesus uses a metaphor that gets you out of bed: “I’m coming like a thief in the night.” Who sleeps through the threat of a home invasion?

You’re awake – you know that Jesus is coming. You’ve gotten out of bed – you know that you can’t ignore Him. And as Romans 13:11-14 tell us, the point of waking up, the point of getting out of bed, is so that you can “walk properly as in the daytime.” The reason you set your alarm and refuse to keep hitting the snooze button is so that you can get to work on time. How silly would it be to wake up, get out of bed, and then not do whatever it is that you got up for! So when God says “Wake up!”, He means for you to get up and get to work.

If you don’t get to work, you might just as well have stayed asleep. For Paul, to be asleep means to be engaged in things that you want the darkness to hide, things like sexual immorality, drunkenness, quarrelling, jealousy. The reason you do those things at night is because you want your actions stay in the shadows, but Paul announces that the dawn is breaking. It’s daytime! That’s the message of Advent – the light is coming. Paul’s application of that message is that since you’ve been awakened by the light, it’s time to stop living in darkness.

Another way to put this is that God’s priority for your wakefulness is your holiness. The most important cause for you to engage is putting your own sin to death, casting off the works of darkness and putting on the armor of light, that is, putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus calls you to; this is why He woke you up.

And living in the daylight looks like this: it looks like making no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. So awaken your heart to the danger feeding your lusts. Awaken your heart to the evil of sin. Maybe you’ve fallen asleep on some of these issues. Maybe you were once awakened to see the sinfulness of sin, but now you’ve rolled over and gone back to sleep. When was the last time you got drunk? When was the last time you looked at porn? When was the last time you had a quarrel? Maybe you’ve been hitting the snooze button on holiness.

This is why preaching and hearing the gospel, and living lives that make the gospel credible are so very important. The Word of God sounds the alarm to a sleeping world, and your neighbor doesn’t need to see you rolling over with your head under the pillow. They need to see you jump out of bed and run towards the light.

If there is one image that captures the essence of Advent, it is light shining in the darkness, the true light coming into the world. Advent is when the dawn of grace broke over a drowsy world, and God says to you that your salvation is nearer now than it was then. So wake up, get out of bed, and walk in the light!

Posted on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 by CJ Bowen