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Tuesday, First Week of Advent
December 2, 2008

"He may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake." —Mark 13:36-37

Keep Awake!

Have you ever been on a long car trip as a solo driver, and you were dangerously sleepy? If you've seen Mr. Bean's Holiday you know some techniques for trying to stay awake at the wheel... toothpicks in the eyes and various skin tortures to let pain talk us into consciousness.

I remember in my college years driving to a summer job in New Mexico from my aunt's house in Nevada. Thinking it was just a few states over, I figured a day's drive should do it. When I announced my plans, my aunt let me know I had a 24 hour drive ahead of me, and I was scheduled to start this job the next day! Desperate to make it there on time, when the coffee was no longer working, I took a big campground catalog I had in the car, tore out each page one by one, balled them up, and tried to toss them into a brown paper bag set up on the back seat. Scoring: about 25%. Yes, I did survive the trip... with barely noticeable psychological scars. DO NOT TRY THIS! NOT RECOMMENDED FOR HUMANS!

I have a lot of sympathy for the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, the night Jesus was arrested. It was late. They were trying to stay awake while Jesus went off and prayed for his life. They were so sleepy. They'd recently had dinner and wine. But it looks bad when you're sleepy and your friend is having the crisis of his life.

Then again, remember the boat trip across the sea of Galilee? The tables were turned. It was Jesus' followers who were looking death in the face as a giant windstorm put their boat -- and their lives -- in jeopardy. But there was Jesus, asleep in the back of the boat. "Rabbi," they cried, "do you not care that we are perishing?!" And Jesus replied -- after he told off the typhoon and quieted everything down -- "Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?"

Jesus is not asking us to stay awake in continual all-nighters, and working ourselves into a coma with vigilance. We are being asked to stay in tune, as much as possible, with the suffering going on in the person next to us. Keep awake! A friend may be anxious about her parent's job, or depressed about losing a friend, or suffering from not knowing where the joy in life has gone. Stay alert to the situations of the people around you. When you reach out to them, especially to the ones no one else is likely to reach, we are told you are closest to Immanuel, God with us.

Keep awake, for you do not know the day or the hour that the opportunity to serve the Lord will come your way. Keep awake! A suffering messiah is coming very near to you.

-- Jeff McArn
College Chaplain