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Recently I changed the password that is sometimes the first necessarily conscious moment for me in the morning. There is an element of semi-consciousness in getting out of bed these days especially if dawn has yet to arrive. I need to be aware of whether I left my bedroom door open when I went to bed or whether there is anything in the hall that I might trip over in passing, and then there is the staircase toward coffee that I need to negotiate…but all those repetitious actions have been wired into my brain long ago so as to require the achievement of only a marginal level of consciousness.

Today, as I turned on my computer, this all came to me in a flash with the sentence: “It takes 29 days to develop a new habit.” Not only do I have to remember the first letter of my new password  – which then leads to automatic pilot – but if I forget that there’s an asterisk somewhere, the whole thing is erased and I have to start over, paying real attention this time. I don’t know who decided that the magic moment for success is 29 days but I am thinking that once a month I ought to consider changing how I do things so I get out of the habit of taking things for granted or living on automatic pilot all the time. Think about it. We have remote controls for our televisions so we never have to get off the couch. Some of us now have a “rhumba” that zooms around our carpets and floors so that we don’t need to vacuum any more. Pretty soon we will have cars that drive themselves so we can relax more – and maybe multi-task (more?) – as we travel. Don’t get me wrong. All of these things that I have mentioned have excellent reasons for use. My concern is only if we come to depend on them so much that we are able to go through life in a state of semi-consciousness because we keep adding inventions that keep us “asleep.”

As we move toward the last week of Advent I hear the lyrics of a song I used to sing with the elementary school children in religious education classes. It urged us to “stay awake! Get ready! You do not know the hour when the Lord is coming. Stay awake! Get ready! The Lord is coming soon!” It started with a clap after each of the first two commands (so as to wake us up, I suppose) and then took off like a train going faster and faster so that by the time it got to the word soon everyone was, indeed, awake.

How close am I to being ready for whatever God will reveal this time as I celebrate the feast of the Incarnation? How can I be sure I will be awake? And what about you?