By Canon Gerry Conroy
I sometimes find myself in the middle of reading a book, falling asleep, or to be more exact I find myself waking up having fallen asleep in the middle of reading a book. I never noticed the falling asleep, only the waking up. We don’t generally catch ourselves falling asleep, it’s the waking up we notice. Sleeping just seems to come upon us, almost catching us unawares. That is probably why Christ chose the the phrase, ‘Stay awake!’ We can sleep walk ourselves into a situation because we don’t really consider what is going on in our lives or in the world around us.
Perhaps we sleep walk into situations because the road to what we want is not always the easiest and most direct road to take. We want to be able to meet up again with our friends and to live normally, to enjoy life, but this pandemic won’t let us. It is forcing restrictions on how we go about things, forcing us to change the way we live. The question we ask is if science and the vaccine will let us sweep the restrictions aside and return to life exactly as it was before? But is that the question we should ask or should we ask if there is something to learn from this past year? Something about realising that we are not so free to live and do as we want; that we must recognise the reality around us and the limits it places on us.
Life more generally, isn’t without its restrictions, – we can’t do what we want to our world, to ourselves, with others, though sometimes we have tried. Do we accept the limits that life imposes on us? Or do we live in thrall to technology and what it can achieve. Perhaps we need to find that balance we have ignored rather than go after the excess in everything. We need to take more notice of the limits of our existence, we need to find a greater harmony with creation and with ourselves and with others, or some other threat will surface. We need to simplify.
Advent has begun with this insistent warning of Jesus to stay awake. It is not the quiet before the dawn when we will suddenly spring into action. It is the wakefulness that sees what the reality of life is rather than sleep-walking into the future. It is making good and proper use of the gifts we have been given as we await the return of Christ and the completion of the Kingdom of God that Christ has already established among us.
Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton
Stay awake and prepare for Christmas – Mgr Gerry Fitzpatrick and ex-Lord Provost Sadie Docherty visit the Nativity scene in George Square, Glasgow. Pictures by Bill Heaney