Second Sunday in Advent
Sunday, December 4th
This testimony was offered in the early worship service by Katie Baxter as part of a four-week testimony series during the season of Advent. The theme of the series comes from Romans 13:11, which reads, “It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.”
In the past year, I’ve been awake in the night more often than any other time in my life. New babies do that to you – first waking around the clock, then moving to a semi-predictable schedule of waking twice, then once a night. But for the past several months, Anna has been sleeping through the night. So it was somewhat out of the ordinary to find myself awake in the wee hours of the morning just a few weeks ago. But none of the quiet, dark hours I had spent nursing, comforting, and listening for my child this past year felt as deafeningly quiet and as starkly dark as the wee hours of the morning on November 9.
I had spent the evening before settled on the couch watching election returns. At first I was giving the TV limited attention. I was working on other projects, talking and texting. I was in and out of the room. But at some point, around the Ohio point, I started to sit up and pay attention. Or, more accurately, hunch over, hold my head in my hands, and pay attention. The mood changed, I was no longer interested in casual conversation. It was becoming evident that this election was not as cut and dry as I had believed and that my candidate – the only candidate I thought was anywhere near a principled, ethical choice – was not in the best position. Perhaps an hour after my partner went to bed, saying that the anxiety was just too much for him, I turned in too. I went to bed with the clear sense that things were not going the way I had hoped or expected, though without certainty of the final outcome.
As someone who, for better or for worse, uses my cell phone as clock and alarm and platform for news alerts, I turned the phone over saying to myself that I didn’t want to know more until the morning. But at 3 AM it’s hard to resist. And laying awake not knowing if it’s 3:00 or 5:00 or 7:00 is even harder, so after a few hours of sleep followed by an indeterminate period of time awake in the night, I turned the phone over to see the time knowing that I was almost certain to also learn the result of the election. When I saw the headline, I sat up, freshly aware of a physical, communal, national darkness. When my partner asked what had happened I couldn’t speak. I could only cry.
And so I wrote. I wrote a letter to my daughter – the one who had customarily been rousing me from sleep, the one currently most likely to issue a call I needed to hear. In that letter, I write…
“Earlier tonight I told you that tomorrow you will wake up in a new world, that tomorrow would be a new day. I had such hope for you and a belief in what our country and our world needed. But now we are faced with a new day of a different sort. This is a day that calls many of our values into question. We aspire to live out a commitment to one another, a community of mutual loyalty. Tonight I fear that many of my fellow citizens have a different hope for our home…..
I can begin to understand the concerns of people who view life differently than I do. Many of our neighbors and fellow citizens have seen their stability and ways of life slip away. But I can’t fathom how differing views turned into votes for a candidate who demonstrates such lack of concern for “the least of these.”
Tonight I’m scared. I’m scared for the cohesion and very functioning of our country and communities. I’m scared for the courts and the rights that could be taken away for generations. I’m scared for those who are already slipping through the cracks in our society who are now likely to be pushed down even further as those who are themselves troubled take it out on others.
How will we, for us and for you and for our neighbors, live up to our values and ideals at this moment and in the many moments to come? How do we guard against insulating ourselves and you from the needs and the plight of others? How will we care for others? How can we take action to push ourselves and our community to stay committed to one another?
Anna, God calls us to these questions and to living into the answers. God asks us what care and love and ministry is required more now than ever before. We have the ultimate opportunity to live out our faith and our values at this time. I hope and pray you will see us doing so.”
I didn’t have answers to those questions that night a few weeks ago and I don’t have answers to them now. What I do have is a sense of being wide awake – re-awakened if you will – to God’s call to do the work of the Kingdom. I am re-awakened to the work I do across lines of religious and philosophical difference through my work at interfaith youth core. I am re-awakened to our shared mission and values here at St. Luke’s. And I am re-awakened to the monumental task and responsibility of shaping a young life that has been entrusted to me.
Some of you know the feeling of when an infant wakes early in the morning on a Saturday and you realize that staying asleep and sleeping in is not an option and will not be an option for years to come. You get up, heeding the call and your responsibility sometimes grudgingly, sometimes – on a good day – with a bit of joy. Like that I, and probably many of you, am awake and aware that I cannot go back to sleep. God is calling. What will we do, now that we are paying attention?