The Christian monk Thomas Merton wrote, "The spiritual life is first of all a matter of keeping awake."
And yet in the Gospel for this Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, it is when Joseph is asleep that the Angel is able to speak to him. (See HERE Matthew 1:18-24) Sometimes we must let our rational mind rest (as in sleep or in contemplation) for answers to our life quandaries to emerge.
But even in this Sunday’s story of Joseph and his dreams, it does say "When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him..."
Merton is correct and almost every spiritual tradition says that the spiritual life is a matter of waking up, of being alert to the ways God comes to us; to awake to wonder and the deeper meanings of life. Listen to one such spiritual teacher:
"Each year [at Advent], God asks us to shed one more coat of unawareness, one more dream state and come alive to the vision of God’s plan for each of us and the world-at-large.
"The older we get, the harder this is to do. As children we had a sense of wonder. Our eyes were wide open and drinking in the fascinating gifts we beheld…Our thirsty souls could not have enough of the wonders of creation.
"Then, somehow, we grew too old to dream. We tired of the abundance of the world, or at least grew weary of keeping up with the feast of life, and stepped away from the banquet of life.
"The natural gift of wonder God gave us as children was meant to be kept alive.…Instead we let wonder go to sleep. We entered the typical dream state of most humans.
"Why else does Jesus tell us today, ‘Stay awake!’…Advent says, ‘Wake up and realize the gifts of love you have received.’
"…Psychology says, ‘Let go.’ Spirituality says, ‘Wake up.’ In both cases there is a withdrawal from the busyness of daily life (our dream state) and a waking up to the subconscious and spiritual depths of ourselves."
(Rev. Alfred McBrideO. Praem., "Gift of Wonder," THE PRIEST, Oct. ‘87, p.26)