Sleepers awake!

Published: 1st December 2022

During the week I had the pleasure of seeing the wonderfully acted and written film ‘Living’, starring Bill Nighy.

I thoroughly recommend it as a film to be experienced in Advent, for, without giving too much away, it wrestles richly and emotively with the question: ‘What does it mean to live well in the present moment?’.

To be ready, alert, watchful, for the coming of the Son of Man – that was the theme of Advent Sunday’s Gospel reading. And what does ‘to be ready’ mean if not to have our house in order, spiritually and ethically – to be living well in the present moment, living faithfully, living with purpose, with our hearts and minds bent to the will of God.

The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Pete Wilcox, once of our diocese, has spoken recently of his cancer journey and its effect on him over the last five years. Perhaps surprisingly he concluded by saying that the cancer had been good for him, spiritually, not least in helping him to be thankful for the gift of life and better at making the most of each day.

To have a sharper, more immediate sense of our own mortality, may be the kick start that we need to amend the way we lead our lives, so that they more nearly conform to the pattern of discipleship laid out by Jesus’ example.

‘Sleepers Awake’ is the name of a well- known Advent hymn and also the title of a new book, and Advent Study course based on it, by Bishop Nick Holtam, formerly the Church of England’s lead on Environmental issues. As the title suggests, its focus is on the need for all of us to wake up to the climate catastrophe which is advancing towards us with ever increasing speed.

But in this case if we wait literally until our own mortality is threatened by flood or famine before we amend our ways then it will be far too late. We have to act now on the basis of the overwhelming evidence from across the globe, including in countries where lives are already being lost and many being made homeless and destitute as a direct consequence of our changing weather systems and events. Just think of Pakistan earlier this year, a third of the country under water …..

We have to keep fossil fuels in the ground. We have to decarbonise our ecomomies. We have to accelerate the production of renewable energy, prioritise energy efficiency and the adoption of green technologies. It is the last throw of the dice with regard to the future of Planet Earth.

Just as, at the last day, he will hold us accountable for how faithfully we have chosen to live our lives, so, surely, will we be held accountable for our stewardship of God’s good creation.

Sleepers, Awake!

+Clive Wulfrun

Images: Rt Revd Clive Gregory: Simon Jones/Lichfield Diocese | Bill Nighy:Harald Krichel/Wikimedia - CC BY-SA 3.0

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