You have just held aloft the world cup for England or bowled the perfect googly at Lord’s to win the ashes.
Won bake off! or the Monaco Grand prix.
Written the perfect bit of computer code or won the nobel prize for chemistry.
Designed a new gadget that will change the world or are simply on a white sandy beach with palm trees in the background and a glass of champagne in your hand.
But then this wonderful moment is interrupted by this strange buzzing sound, or perhaps voices or music, or “This in the news at 6 o clock on Sunday 28th November”.
Our dreaming is interrupted by the cruel sound of the alarm clock calling us to wake up.
For a moment you are lost, a little bewildered as the boundaries between dream and reality are blurred but eventually you realise you it was just a dream.
Some of us have vivid dreams. Dreams that are remembered and recalled the next day. Some of us never remember our dreams. Yet we all dream.
And if we don’t remember our night dreams, we have dreams in our waking hours too. Dreams
about who we think we are, what we hope for and what we want to do.
Of course we need dreams but sometimes even in a small way we can build lives on them.
They become a kind of elusive fantasy as we imagine a life that is always somewhere else, and never happens for all sorts of reasons.
So that we never really live in the present.
Into this talk of sleep and dreams and fantasy, in the midst of the dark and cold nights of November and December when we wrap ourselves in our duvets and don’t want to get out of bed comes the season of Advent.
An alarm clock season, calling us to be alertness and to be ready as we think of Christ’s coming.
St. Paul memorably plays with the imagery of being awake and asleep in his letter to the Romans when he writes of how ‘it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep’ .
The collect for Advent Sunday draws on Paul’s language as through it we are invited to ‘cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light’ When? ‘now’ the collect goes on ‘in the time of this mortal life.’
Advent is the alarm clock season, a call to wake up…..now!
There’s a saying that we can sometimes sleepwalk towards disaster.
That has certainly been the case the climate change for example and so it’s only now as we are beginning to see the consequences of it that we are alert to it.
And in the last week the spotlight has been turned on the plight of those migrants who died seeking a better life trying to cross the English channel. Perhaps now we shall awake from our slumber and make sure it never happens again.
And perhaps we can sleepwalk through our lives sometimes too, as maybe those whom Jesus addressed in our Gospel for today were doing.
So, he turns up the rhetoric, saying that there will ‘be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars and distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.’
This is not the fluffy lovely dovey Jesus we sometimes imagine but an uncompromising and uncomfortable teacher trying to get the attention of his listeners.
And he tells them to ‘be alert at all times’. His words were an alarm clock, a wake up call in his day.
Words that have echoed through the centuries as they have been read at the beginning of this alarm clock season.
But it’s hard when to do this when Christmas is all around us already and necessary preparations are going on. Yet let us not forget through these days of Advent the alarm clock call to be alert to the coming of Jesus.
His coming to the crib and his coming again to judge the living and the dead as we so often say in the creed. We can think of that coming with knees knocking or as invitation to live into the life to which God has called each one of us.
To live the good life into which Jesus invites us all.
So, though we’ve all fallen short.
Though we’ve all made a muck of it.
Though we’re all ‘guilty of dust and sin’ as the priest and poet Geroge Herbert put it God does not leave us in the darkness, lost in our fears.
God is ‘quick-eyed love’ as Herbert goes on who draws us from darkness to light.
That journey begins not with the fantasy, the half truths, the imaginings we tell ourselves but with the reality of who we are. That’s why there is this penitential theme through the season and the liturgical colour is purple.
It is such a contrast to the tinsel and parties of the month before us yet is so important.
For through it, as our Advent candles burn down and our calendars are opened.
As we spend a bit of time pondering the readings and music of the season.
We hope and pray to become alert again ‘now’ to the God who comes ‘in this mortal life’ and invites us into communion with him who is love.
Herbert’s poem is worth reciting in full on Advent Sunday as we begin this alarm clock season, for it is a poem that does not deny the reality of how we sometimes live but places it within the love song of our God. It’s a poem I want heard at my funeral.
Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.
May this season awaken us afresh to behold God’s presence in our lives
and to the love that calls us into life in and through Jesus Christ
the one who was,
who is and is to come.