Sleeper, Awake!

There is a great text by Philipp Nicolai set to music by Bach called, “Sleeper’s Awake”. The original German text is “Wauchet Auf” which seems to ring with a little more authority than the English version. But regardless of which language one hears it in; the message is still pertinent for our time. If ever there was a need for the call to awaken it is now.

We have been sleeping the slumber so aptly described in the parable of the ten virgins told by Jesus. We have slipped into a state of unconsciousness—especially within the church and organized religion. Lulled into a sense that all is well, we have allowed our religion to stand in the place of an enlivened, vital relationship with the living Christ.

We have also lulled ourselves to sleep through the indulgences of busy-ness, over-eating, and mass media. Celebrity worship is but one symptom that we find the lives of others far more interesting and alive than our own.

The words of the song go on to say, “Wake, arise, loud call the voices of watchmen so high in the tower, ‘Wake up, you town Jerusalem’. Midnight’s hour is now approaching they call to us with lucid voices…The bridegroom comes…whose light has stirred the waiting guard.”

Full of symbolism and meaning are the words of the text that was written to spread its message. Sleeper, awake! It speaks to all. We have all slumbered and slept, but just as a call goes out, so do we eventually hear a call to awaken to our need for a deeper relationship with the Bridegroom. The time is ripe for awakening.

What we need to wake up and remember is that we are here to become a light to the world. We are not just friends of the Bridegroom we are the Bride! Our lanterns are our hearts—lit with the light of Christ shining through us. We are meant to bring a piece of God and God’s love down to earth and bless the earth through the unique gifts that God has created us with.

The voice that calls out is lucid—it is awake during the dream that we call life. It sees that we are sleeping and it calls us to become more aware, more conscious of what transpires in the moments of our lives. Do we see others? Do we see the suffering in the world? Do we see where we are needed and where our life could make a difference to someone?

The call usually does not attract our attention for very long until we experience some type of tragedy in our lives. The loss of someone close or the loss of a job or marriage can cause us to pay attention to the voice that invites us out of our deep slumber. We sense the need for a regular spiritual practice in our lives, but life has many sleep inducing qualities to it. We sleep walk through much of life.

Jesus’ own disciples had a difficult time with this. Even in the midst of the heart-wrenching pain of their dear master, they slept. Three times in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus came to hear a word of encouragement from them, and three times he found them sleeping. At last, he sighed, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come…”

It wasn’t until after the resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the disciples finally woke up! The same remains true today. It is only by the power of the Spirit that we are enabled to remain conscious and aware of life and what God’s plan is for our lives.

The good news is that the promise has been given that God desires to give us the Spirit even more than a good parent desires to give their child good gifts. By daily making time for spiritual practice we make time and space for the Spirit to enter our lives and awaken in us all of the good things that God has in store for us. There has never been a better time than now to wake up.