Hymn text by Theodore E. Curtis, 1872-1957. View the full text of this hymn.

sunrise

Awake and arise, O ye slumbering nations!
The heavens have opened their portals again.
The last and the greatest of all dispensations
Has burst like a dawn o’er the children of men!

This is it. The end of days, the Second Coming, the final judgment, all of it is upon us. We’re in the very last days before all of this happens. It’s at our doors, and we don’t want to be caught napping lest that day come upon us like a thief in the night. We want to be prepared, so that rather than being taken by surprise, we will be ready, eagerly awaiting the coming of our Lord and King.

The image of the rays of the gospel message bursting forth like light across the world is well-chosen. It’s not as though the Lord’s teachings are any great secret. His mission, like that of His Father’s, is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. That’s a big task, and not one likely to be accomplished by skulking about in the shadows. He proclaims His gospel to all the world, and he commands us to do the same. Just as the rays of light pouring through our windows at sunrise call us out of bed and beckon us to take on the tasks of our day, the truths brought back to earth in the restoration prompt us to take action and spur others do to the same as we share those truths with them.

And yet we’re tempted, all of us, to block out those rays of light by pulling the covers back over our heads. When my alarm goes off in the morning, it’s rare that I leap out of bed full of pep and energy, eager to meet the challenges of the day. I get up, but I do so a little begrudgingly, as I’m sure you do. I’d really rather put off starting my day just by a little. Maybe five more minutes would do the trick. Maybe I could do without eating breakfast, or maybe I could skip the shower this morning. We’re faced with those temptations every day. When the gospel calls us to action (and it does often), we’re tempted to ask for a few more minutes. I know I need to prepare a lesson for church, but maybe I can watch a few more plays of football first. I know I need to make calls to schedule visits with my home teaching families, but maybe I could take a moment and read another chapter in my book first.

It’s difficult to feel the excitement of the gospel urging us on sometimes, but when we hear the second verse, perhaps we’ll be reminded of exactly why it is we have so much reason to be motivated to act:

The dream of the poet, the crown of the ages,
The time which the prophets of Israel foretold,
That glorious day only dreamed by the sages
Is yours, O ye slumbering nations; behold!

Many, many prophets had visions of our time, prophesying of the wonders we would see as the Second Coming approached. Job did, as did Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Micah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, to name a very few. This is the “time which the prophets of Israel foretold,” and they were excited about it. And here we are, living it. Why should we sleep through it, then? Why pull the covers over our heads when we can take part in spread of the gospel? We can watch and help as “truth, heaven-born, in its beauty and glory [marches] triumphantly over the world.” It’s so tempting to ask for just a couple more minutes, but when we sing this hymn (“brightly,” no less), we get a powerful reminder to awake and arise, to stand up and join the great cause, and to “lift up [our] voices in song and in story.” A bright and incredible day is on the horizon. Let’s make sure we don’t miss it.

Image credit: “Sunrise,” pixabay user Archbob, CC0 1.0.

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