Saturday, November 12, 2005

Becoming a "light sleeper"

At another point in Auden's poem, there is a moment when the archangel Gabriel offers one word:


That is an image that has always given me shivers whenever Advent, its liturgies and music, looms on my pastoral horizon. There is a host of material out there, meditations on what it means to experience God experiencing Incarnation. There is the call to the young woman, Mary becoming the God-bearer, theotokos in Greek. There is the call of the Baptist, John of Elizabeth coming out of the wilderness looking like an old-school prophet in an age when prophecy has fallen silent. There is the waking, even on the night of the Feast of the Nativity, of the shepherds sleeping in the field. Farther on, there is the slow journey the wise make to presence of the Christ, bearing the gifts of the world to the king of all.

"Wachet Auf!" Sleepers wake!

"Sleepers wake, a voice astounds us,
The shout of rampart guards surrounds us:
'Awake Jerusalem, arise!'
Midnight's peace their cry has broken
their urgent summons clearly spoken,
'The time has come, O maidens wise!
Rise up and give us light;
The bridegroom is in sight."

Something is about to happen. Something wonderful.

Problem is, we don't know when.

These aren't weather forecasts. This isn't us being savvy and wise and smart and good with projections and estimates. This goes beyond being able to digest and intuit the trends of market drift.

This is about being patient and watchful for the actions of the mind of God.

No one is easy with that prescription. I am learning again, all over again, to be patient in waiting for the spirit. I am learning to be watchful and open to where the will of God is pushing this community and my own ministry. Everything rides on it. Everything.

So, I am learning to become a light sleeper. Both spiritually and physically.

Actually, I have always been a light sleeper. It takes little to bring me up and out of sawing logs. Even the cat, jumping down from the dresser can invite my eyes to open, my mind to clear. Just for a minute or so, until I figure out what the sound is and am able to return to my rest.

That actually happened last night. But, what woke me was not the sound of something going bump in the night. What woke me was silence.

At some point after Laura and I went to sleep, we lost power in the neighborhood. All the lights winked out on the street. The furnace shut off. The phone machine beeped softly. The air freshener fan in the other room whirred to a stop.

There was silence. Darkness.

That was what woke me up. It was quiet, dark. More so than it ever usually is.

I woke up, and awake lay in bed trying to understand what was happening.

Nothing had gone bump, bang or crash. There was not one indicator that anything was wrong at all. It was just quiet.

I think that is what Trinity is getting ready for. We are good at making noise, that joyful cacophony of praise to God that is life in a busy Church. Soon, though, will come a moment in the process of Advent when it all falls silent for a short time. When we give up for just a second our mad rush to get it all done. Then, we will rest in God. Even if it is for a second, it is in those moments that we find the Great Silence that is God loving us.

That is when Gabriel enters the play again from stage right and says, quietly, simply awe-fully:


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