It used to be that human beings set the standard for early morning wake-ups by listening to a rooster crow as the sun came up. Today, however, most of us don’t keep a rooster in the backyard for our morning wake-up call, instead we rely on alarm clocks— watches, cell phones, a standard clock radio, a classic alarm clock that you wind up every night, or hungry toddlers who always wake up early on Saturday but never any other day of the week— all to drag us out of bed in the morning.
But what if you’re the kind of person who is so deep into sleep that you snore right through your alarm? Or, what if you’re a chronic pusher of the snooze button whose mantra of “nine more minutes” actually turns into a half hour or more? You might need the equivalent of a rooster screaming in your ear! Given the problematic nature of keeping said rooster in one’s bedroom, some new technology has made it nearly impossible to sleep through another alarm. For instance…
The Puzzle Alarm Clock: When the Puzzle Alarm clock goes off, three different puzzle shapes shoot out into the room, and it blares until you put the puzzle together at the base.
There’s the Laser Target Alarm Clock: which requires sharpshooting skills to your morning routine. When the alarm goes off, you have to aim a laser beam directly at its center to turn it off.
There’s the Wake and Shake Alarm Clock: When it goes off, it shrieks with a sound that’s literally only five decibels short of a jackhammer, while vibrating a pad under your head.
And then there is Clocky: This is for us snoozers. If you hit the snooze button on this innocent looking clock, it launches itself off the nightstand and rolls around the room looking for a place to hide, whereupon it will blare its alarm until you get up and find it.
If you need any of these alarms, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not a morning person. But whether you’re the kind of person who wakes up in the morning fresh as a daisy, or the kind that requires constant annoyance to get out of bed, there’s always another kind of wake-up call that all of us need to hear, and that’s the spiritual kind. This is a needed call for even the most devotedly spiritual person because we are all sinners in need of grace—and such a call is what we get from the Apostle Paul on this first Sunday of Advent.
You have to imagine that the Apostle Paul was a morning person—he was so organized and driven by the urgency of spreading the gospel. It’s no wonder then, that Paul wants his fellow Christians to wake up and get to work at being God’s people. And Paul urgently wants them, and us, to wake up because a new dawn has broken, new realities are at hand, and there’s no use in burning daylight!
In our text for today Paul is talking about time—something he does a lot, and we’ve talked about this before. The alarm clock beside your bed tracks time chronologically, minute by minute, until it strikes the alarm. But the kind of time Paul is talking about here is about God’s timing, particularly God’s timing in relationship with the return of Jesus. That’s the meaning of the Greek word kairos. Paul believed he and his churches were living between two different ages— the present age, marked by human sin and brokenness; and the “age to come”, which had begun with Christ’s death and resurrection, and would be consummated in Christ’s glorious return.
Conversely, his Greco-Roman contemporaries believed that chronos time only moved in never-ending cycles. But Paul understood chronos time as moving somewhere— toward the kairos point of Christ’s return. And for Paul, kairos time of the first Easter was a new dawn, a sign that the new creation had begun with the empty tomb.
It’s no coincidence that the resurrection took place early in the morning. While we would rather roll over and hit the snooze button when our alarm goes off, Paul reminds the church that because the dawn of a new creation has begun with the risen Jesus, “now is the moment for you to wake from sleep.”
Now it needs noted, in the ancient world, “sleep” was often used as a metaphor for spiritual inattentiveness. Jesus himself warned against “spiritual snoozing”, most notably when he returns from his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane and finds his followers asleep instead of awake and at work. Paul is urging us to wake up from this spiritual inattentiveness, saying, “the night is far gone, the day is near” and “salvation is nearer to us than when we became believers.” This “salvation” is both a present and future reality: present, because it can bring us into a saving relationship with God right now, and future, because Christ’s return brings salvation and wholeness to the entire creation.
The kairos is getting short, says Paul, and it’s time to wake up. It’s an alarm that, like those goofy alarm clocks, wakes us to work with God to… put God’s creation back together… to target where the world is in pain… and to seek out the dim corners of the world where people hide from God and bring them into God’s marvelous light. And that is Advent—the time before this new dawn is born, to prepare ourselves for this work that is to be done in and through Jesus.
What’s one of the first things you do when you get up in the morning? I suppose, after we find and suppress Clocky the hide and seek clock, we likely cast off our pajamas, jump in the shower, grab some coffee, and get dressed for the day—pretty standard.
Paul says in our text we need to do the same thing spiritually. The new dawn of Christ’s glory has broken in and exposed the sinful “works of darkness” we tend to hide but need to cast off. Therefore Paul instructs us to “lay aside” the kind of spiritual clothing that we hide in the dimness of night, things like: quarreling, jealousy, covenanting someone other than our spouse, anything that hinders our relationship with God and others, and the like. Paul says they are not suitable in the light of Christ’s new creation. Instead, Paul says, while mixing his metaphors, we are to “put on the armor of light.”
In other words, we are to awaken each day prepared to do battle against apathy to how things are, a defeatist attitude, or worse, an ignorant indifference that convinces ourselves that everything is just fine. Paul says, we are to clothe ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ himself by beginning each day with a time of confession and repentance keeps unfaithful mindsets at bay and enables us to live in the daylight of Christ’s glory.
So how does one “put on Christ” each new day?
Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of Church of the Resurrection, in Leawood, Kansas gives us a practical and tangible practice that can help us. He suggests we use our morning shower time for more than just the physical cleansing, but a spiritual cleansing as well. To do this Hamilton crafted the “Shower Prayer.” The prayer is printed on what looks like a plastic luggage tag, and is meant to hang in your shower so you can read and recite it each day.
It reads, “Lord, as I enter the water to bathe, I remember my baptism. Wash me by your grace. Fill me with your Spirit. Renew my soul. I pray that I might live as your child today, and honor you in all that I do.”
Such a prayer helps us remember, that in baptism, our old selves died with Christ and we are now resurrected with him to new life— a life suited for living in the light of new creation.
Such a prayer helps us begin each day remembering that we have been baptized and washed in the cleansing water of forgiveness and new birth.
When we start the day remembering our baptism, confessing our sin, and taking on the character of Jesus, we can face any day wide awake and ready to work for Christ’s glory.
We can “live honorably” through the day as people who know that dawn has broken and the full light of Christ’s glory is on the horizon.
Now, in this sermon, on the first Sunday of Advent, at the beginning of the Christmas season, we have considered the Baptism of Jesus, the Easter morning resurrection of Jesus, AND the apocalyptic second coming. It all might seem as if I have hit the snooze button, not on my alarm clock, but on my calendar. But the Lectionary gives us this text at Advent very intentionally to keep us mindful of the light that comes at Christmas—it comes to convict us to wake up, prepare for, and ready ourselves for the light of Christ AND for what will try to impede that light.
We are in the season of expectation and preparation, but it is a season that can quickly consume us with all the trappings of Christmas but none of the Spirit of Christmas. So may we use Advent to prepare us for the one who comes in the name of the Lord so that apathy, ignorance, indifference, inattentiveness, and all the dimness of this world is outshined by the light of God. May we use Advent as a call to wake up to the new dawn that is coming.
Sure, we may still be rubbing the sleep out of our eyes tomorrow morning, and we may be cursing that annoying alarm clock. But once our feet hit the floor, and the water and words of our shower prayer flow, we will know that it is a new day, and it is a gift. And we will know that the new day brings with it the promise of a day closer to Christ and his kingdom.
Advent is here. Christ is coming. It’s time to wake up and get ready for Jesus. Amen.