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Wake Up!
November 27, 2022

First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto

ROMANS 13:11-14

Happy new year! This is the first Sunday of the new year. Last night was New Year’s Eve. Did you have a party? I’m talking about the church calendar. Roman Catholics and mainline Protestant denominations begin the church year today with the four Sunday season of “Advent”. In Advent we anticipate the coming of Christ at the end of history and at his birth.

I recall the time we couldn’t find my younger brother. We lived on a farm. We checked the outbuildings; we looked everywhere. My mother was frantic so I jumped on my bicycle and rode to all the neighbors. He was nowhere. Where did we find him? In the far corner of the upper bunkbed, sound asleep! Wake up, you sleepy head!

Paul tells us to wake up!  Wake up from nightmares. Wake up from bad dreams what  Paul calls “works of darkness.” Many have dark areas in their lives—trouble with children, marital tension, worries about grandchildren, health issues, financial setbacks, and in the world senseless shootings, war in Ukraine, on and on— 

Paul gives examples of the works of darkness in Romans 13:13. Listen carefully to see if you see yourself. “Orgies and drunkenness, sexual immorality and sensuality, quarreling and jealousy.”

Also, Galatians 5:19-21, from The Message translation: Are you ready for this?

“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. “

What an apt description of our world today. Whew! Did any of these make you uncomfortable, too close to home? If so, acknowledge it. Wake up! Stop and make changes! Paul urged, “Cast off the works of darkness…Get out of bed, take off your pajamas and get dressed!” Paul wrote (13:11-12), “The hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” 

The military image of armor is interesting. It’s as if we are awakened suddenly and discover that we are in a military encampment just before dawn. The camp is astir, sniffing the wind, scanning the horizon. The soldiers put on their armor, ready for battle. We are in battle. We are in conflict, hopefully not with each other, but with the forces of darkness in your life and in the world.

What is the armor we put on to fight? Paul calls it the armor of light. We don’t create the light. We reflect the light of Christ, like the moon reflects the light of the sun. We reflect the light of Christ to banish the darkness. Where there is light, there is no darkness.


And, in verse 14, Paul says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Dress yourselves in Christ.” What does that mean? The metaphor has to do with what we wear. We symbolically wear Jesus. In other words, we live as Jesus would live.

To be more specific, Colossians 3:12-14, “Put on then…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

“Get ready for Christmas” is our Advent theme. It is a busy time—buying and decorating a tree, decorating the house or apartment, lighting advent candles, baking cookies, watching Hallmark Christmas movies, purchasing gifts, wrapping, anticipating, shaking, smelling, guessing;! But, we also need to spiritually prepare our minds and hearts for the coming of Christ in the birth of the baby Jesus.

For the four Sundays of Advent, we will look at how we might spiritually get ready for Christmas, beginning today with the call to “Wake up!” Today’s text, according toThe Message, reads, “But make sure that you are not so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of your  many day-by-day obligations that you lose track of time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute.”

Don’t be so absorbed and exhausted in getting ready for Christmas that you miss Christmas! How do we wake up and get ready for Christmas?

I suggest we get out of bed every morning and recite, “This is the day the Lord has made; let me rejoice and be glad in It.” 

I asked those who participated in the Sermon Study class how they get ready for Christmas. By the way, we are now going to meet on Wednesdays at 12 noon and you are invited. Here are some of their responses.

“Nancy enjoys researching and choosing which causes she will support financially at Christmas.” I suggest we begin with looking at the Joy of Giving opportunities.

Pastor G begins listening to Christmas music at the end of October.

Scott goes to Christmas choral concerts. Right here in our sanctuary are three golden opportunities, all next weekend. Friday evening, the Bay Choral Guild at 8pm,            Saturday afternoon, the Ragazzi Boys Chorus at 1pm, and Sunday evening at 7pm our own choir leads us in the Advent Procession and Candles.

Pam reads daily devotions. Let’s all of us begin each day by waking up with the Bible. Fill our minds with the Bible rather than the works of darkness. Many of you have a daily reading. For those of you who don’t, and even those who do, I suggest we make a pact and agree to read a passage every morning. The Book of Mark was the first gospel to be written and it is compact and readable. Let’s read a chapter a day and when we’ve finished Mark, start reading Luke which begins with the Christmas stories. Begin tomorrow with the first chapter of Mark.

When Ellie and I married, there was dissension in her extended family. I told her that I was not going to keep track of who is not speaking to whom and that when we entertained, we would invite everyone and leave it up to them as to who would come. Ellie’s father and one of his brothers had a falling-out for years. At a gathering in our house, Ellie’s step-father took their hands and joined them together. I couldn’t hear what he said but they reconciled on the spot. What a Christmas the family had that year!

Wake up! Take a look at your life. What is it that you need to change so your mind, your heart, your relationships will be ready for Christmas?

© 2022 Douglas I. Norris