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About Faith - Wake up!
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For those who do not follow the liturgical Christian year, it may seem strange to think of this Sunday as the beginning of a new year. The notion that a new year is upon us may not seem right when leftover Thanksgiving turkey is still in the fridge. But for those attuned to such things, this Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is relevant not only to those who celebrate Christmas for twelve days beginning Dec. 25, but also to those for whom the Christmas (shopping) season begins today, Black Friday.

What makes Advent relevant to Christians of all stripes is its demand to be attentive to and aware of what is going on around us. In order to wait for the coming of the Messiah, we must be mindful of what that day may look like. We begin with the ending in mind, and watch as the future of our history unfolds. Those who blithely go through life, responding to daily events without a sense of the big picture, miss the significance of those events, individually and collectively. Advent is a wakeup call to all who are asleep in their faith." Besides 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" (Romans 13:11).

Being awake and alert is not as easy as it may seem. Other interests in the world are content to keep us slumbering. Governments, entrepreneurs, and other entities with a vested interest in peace-by-anesthesia would rather not see us awaken to the yearning God has placed in our hearts. What we need, they say, is another movie or song to entertain us, or another new product to stave off the boredom and angst of our world. Alertness, then, must be an intentional endeavor; slumbering is the default position.

Competing worldviews interpret events in ways that challenge our understanding of God acting in history. To them, history is an account of human activity, apart from God. The proper response, according to such views, is more human activity. The fact that human activity is what got us in this mess does not weaken their hope that we can save ourselves. The Christian view that God is acting in history demands a different response, however. With God acting in history, with an end game on the horizon, the only sensible human response is to consider how our thoughts and actions are in concert with God, and to change course to be more in alignment with God’s will. This change of course is called repentance, another important aspect of Advent.

"Prepare the way of the Lord. Make a highway for our God," declares Isaiah. "Let the valleys be filled, and the rough places plain." This is not some ancient road construction project, but a metaphor for straightening out the crooked places in our own lives. It is as fresh today as it was in Isaiah’s time, and just as demanding. But to do this, we must first wake up to the reality of our own need for change. Paul was right. Now is the moment to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us than when we became believers.


The Rev. Brian Dale is the pastor of Allen Memorial Methodist Church in Oxford.