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Weekly Reflection - Physical and Spiritual Drowsiness

26 November 2021

Father Chris

As far as I know, no one has ever fallen asleep during one of my sermons… and as far as I know, neither have I! I do recall in one parish keeping the watch on Maundy Thursday was difficult for its vicar, who would faithfully stay in church all night until midnight. He would sit at the back of the chapel where we kept the watch, I would generally be at the front, and part way through, I was guaranteed to hear a little snore or two from behind me. No doubt he was tired, and with a hectic lifestyle, keeping vigil for about three hours one spring evening simply gave his body the time it needed to recuperate – as an incumbent myself now, I have sympathy!

We can all be drowsy at times, especially if we do work hard, or if we have worries which keep us awake at night, only to find we’re tired again the next day. Other things can make us physically drowsy too, and in our hectic societies, we must make time to look after ourselves. By contrast, however, drowsiness in the spiritual life is not something we can afford, as this coming Advent season reminds us.

In the Prayer Book readings for the First Sunday of Advent, the Epistle is taken from Romans chapter 13, where Paul exhorts his listeners: ‘Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light’.

The message is that we have to be on the watch for the time and hour our Saviour will come back to earth, and take precautions so that we not be found drowsy and thus ill-prepared when he does.

We are aware how quickly Christmas comes round once we’ve started our Advent preparations. Christmas is the time Light himself came into the world in Jesus Christ. When that light dawns, what will it expose? One commentator put it beautifully: ‘may its first rays be witness of our innocence, or at least of our repentance’.

St Bernard of Clairvaux knew that Advent is a beautiful time to meditate on the three comings of Jesus: first, his coming at Christmas, which we know will soon be celebrated; then his coming at the end of time, whenever that might be; but importantly as well, his coming into our hearts. I hope and pray you will take advantage of this precious in between time therefore to rekindle your relationship with God, opening your heart to him now, so that when he does come again, he may find us ready to welcome him.

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