Stay Awake Amidst the Darkness

+ A short sermon preached for Holden Evening Prayer at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Chicago, IL on December 3, 2014 +

Text: Matthew 26:36-44

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

When my family moved to Alaska, I remember being enamored by the Land of the Midnight Sun where it really could be light outside until past midnight. As the clever kid that I thought I was, I asked my mom if we could set my summer bedtime to match the sunset. She slyly responded, ‘Sure, but only if we do the same for your bedtime in the winter.’ Despite all the fun opportunities to play in the snow, Alaskan winters can be a difficult time to be awake and active. It isn’t the cold or the snow that keeps you cooped up – it’s the darkness. I know that there’s an understanding of that darkness here in Chicago now that the sun sets before 4:30, but in my hometown of Eagle River around the winter solstice, the sun wouldn’t rise until almost 10:30 and set around 3:30. I went to school in the dark and came home in the dark. It’s hard not to be tired in this darkness when all your body wants to do is sleep.

In tonight’s reading from Matthew, we see the disciples struggle to stay awake as Jesus is praying in the darkness. Each time Jesus comes back to them, they’re asleep! During Advent we also try to keep awake for Christ’s coming. And yet, the mystery of Advent is that we know Christ has simultaneously already come, will come again, and is with us now and forever. We yearn for the love of God shining in the incarnation bringing hope and joy. We hunger for Jesus’ light in our lives providing comfort and salvation. And we ache for the coming radiant glory of Christ ushering in God’s reign of justice and peace when all darkness will vanish.

While we are living in this present darkness, it’s easy to fall asleep or be tired. We see the anguish of the world and we wait for Christ’s coming. We see wars in the Middle East, racial injustice in Ferguson, and our fellow children of God hungry on the streets. It’s so easy to be discouraged and tired from this darkness. But stay awake! See that Christ is here and works with us to transform the world from darkness into light! Christ is with us as we struggle to end war, injustice, and poverty. The light of Christ shines in the darkness of our world and the darkness cannot over come it. Immanuel, God with us, is here and is coming again and again.

So stay awake!

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