One of the iconic scenes in the groovie movie, Harold and Maud happens in a field of daisies. When Harold observes that all of the daisies are alike, Maud responds:
Oh there not, see? Some are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some grow to the right, some even have lost some peddles. There are all kinds of observable differences…..I feel that much of the world’s sorrow comes from people who are this (Maud holds up one daisy) yet allow themselves to be treated as that. (she waves her hand across the field of thousands of daisies)
Most any theology book will point to evidence of what God is like in the natural world. The three thousand, five hundred known species of just mosquitos, the unique pattern of every snowflake and the silver light of a hundred stars as they were ten thousand years ago that you’ll get to see while walking home could bring you to your knees if you think about them. God is known by lavish, extravagant attentiveness to detail.
So is love.
Thirty-five years later, I can tell you where all of the branches were on the tree in my childhood backyard and I can feel climbing each one distinctly if I close my eyes. I know when my wife has been crying long after she’s finished by how she smells. You might be able to tell the sound of your best friend’s foot fall even in a crowd, even when your back is turned. Similarly, Jesus said God knows when a sparrow falls to the ground and numbers every hair on your head. (Matthew 10:29-30)
On this, the first official Sunday of the season of Advent and one Sunday leading up to it, the Gospel lessons end with Jesus telling his followers to “keep awake” and “watch”. Both of these demands sound like chores, but that depends on why you’re doing them.
If you asked me to “keep awake” on New Year’s Eve I could barely do it because I’m forty-eight and honestly, I just don’t care anymore when the ball drops in Times Square. But you wouldn’t have to tell me to keep awake all night with my sick daughter. If you tell me to “watch” the cookies in the oven there’s a one-in-three chance I’ll get distracted by adorable otters on YouTube or by talking on the phone and you’re going to get burnt cookies. But when my Grandfather went away to war he didn’t have to tell my Grandmother to watch. Every day, no matter if she was washing the floor or riding the bus, with every news article and radio report she was watching for him. Compelled by love, she couldn’t do anything else.
When Jesus tells us to “stay awake” I think he’s telling us to love the world as He does. If we can’t always do it with our hearts, maybe we can with our eyes, with our ears, with how we pay attention.
Where there are slogans maybe we can write poems, where there are groups of people being treated like they’re all the same maybe we can work on seeing them, one by one. Where there is hatred, maybe we can sow love.
Staying awake with you,