The Writing is on the Wall – Session One
The Writing is on the Wall – Session One
In this session, looking at week one of Advent, we will use the first line of the hymn Sleepers Wake to discuss the state of climate change today. Features an interview with Dr Ruth Valerio.

This series is about Christian spirituality for Advent in the context of the climate and environmental crises.

It is based around the first verse of the hymn ‘Sleepers Wake’ using the four lines to give a framework for each week of Advent.  The book has daily reflections for the theme of the week and this series will provide a framework for group discussion and prayer.  Our prayer, here at homegroups, is that you will find the material challenging enough to move you to want to make important and needed change in the care of creation.

The below video is a recording of the hymn produced in lockdown.

As a way of an introduction, we asked author of Sleepers Wake, Nicolas Holtam why he wrote the book and why it is so important at this time. Watch the video below for his insights.

Week One

In this session, looking at week one of Advent, we will use the first line of the hymn Sleepers Wake, written below, to frame a discussion about the situation we are facing in terms of climate change and the environment.

“Sleepers, wake!” the watch cry pealeth,
While slumber deep each eyelid sealeth:
Awake, Jerusalem, awake!

Watch the Video

Watch the video, which is an interview with Dr Ruth Valerio, about her thoughts of the situation.  Ruth Valerio is a Global Advocacy and Influencing Director for Tearfund and carries a vision to inspire and equip Christians to a whole-life response to poverty and has a particular interest in environmental issues.  Her previous role was Churches and Theology Director for A Rocha UK, a Christian charity that works for the protection and restoration of the natural world.  She has a theology degree from Cambridge and a doctorate from Kings College London.

Study Notes

The question’s that are facing us today about climate change and the environment are there for us all to see but we must decide if we are going to take things seriously and see the writing on the wall.  In Rembrandt’s painting of Belshazzar’s feast, we see that Belshazzar has to turn around to see the writing on the wall, during the sacrilegious feat he is enjoying.  It is in a language that he does not understand.  The writing meant that God had numbered the days of his reign and was bringing it to an end. The book describes so well the symbolism in this picture and the parallel with it and what we are doing with the information we have about the climate issues – the fact is that although we have been armed with information for over 30 years, policy makers are just not responding quickly enough.  Our call to action is to not ignore what we are seeing but to respond.

In terms of global warming the book describes the ‘boiled-frog syndrome’ which depicts how this crisis has been creeping up on us and things appeared to be moving relatively slowly therefore we have been very slow to respond. Now we haven’t got long to turn things around, if at all.  We are passed the point of stopping the climate crisis – the question now is how bad are we willing to let it be? In terms of injecting hope, we can still make a difference in deciding what the future will look like and we must engage with everything we can to flatten the impact. In this first week of Advent our task is to wake up to what we are doing to the word God has given to us.

The things we decide to act on come from theologically rooted places.   As Christians we believe that we worship the Lord of all creation and should want to take care of creation and act in a way that causes governments and businesses to take care of it.  It’s about how we live out our beliefs in our lives.

The climate crisis is both an environmental and a poverty crisis.  Although it is clear to see the climate crisis in indeed an environmental crisis, seen in eco-systems being devastated and species decimated, a more silent crisis is that of poverty within this. Through extreme weather events and poor crop growth we will see more and more people come into poverty and all the humanitarian issues that arise from this.  The care for people and the care for the environment are intrinsicality linked as you can’t separate one from the other.  People live on the land and the land cares for the people.

Some people view the world with humans on one side and the environment on a different side being there to serve humans, to meet their own ends. However, scripture does not dictate this way of living – we have been called to be ‘servant rulers’, not just thinking about ourselves, but to take care of creation.  Genesis 2:15 says’ “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” 

Noah’s ark is featured on the Saturday of week one and looks at the challenge of saving the animals from the great flood.  It speaks into the drama of Noah and his family building the ark and withstanding the ridicule of the community that came along with the task.  To them the flood did not seem real until it was too late!  There is a link here between this story and climate change – these climate sceptics would have us not take any action – however, even if the science is wrong the worst that will happen is that we have a cleaner and more sustainable planet.  To act now, while we still can, seems like a win-win scenario.

From the book – page 34

In my lifetime, the picture that has most changed the way we think about
ourselves is Earth Rise, the photograph taken by the crew of the Apollo 8
spacecraft on Christmas Eve 1968, when they became the first humans to
witness the earth rising above the moon’s barren surface. Fifty years after
taking the photograph, William Anders observed, ‘We set out to explore
the moon and instead discovered the earth.’
This blue planet is our beautiful, small, wondrous, fragile home, like an ark on which we dwell. Even in a vast expanding universe, there is no Planet B for us. This is it and we have a duty to care for the earth, for ourselves, for our successors, for life, for God.

Discussion Points

  1. What struck you from the material this week?
  2. The facts about climate change and the environment are clear. Why do you think it is so difficult for us to address them?
  3. What would you say to our successors about the way we are handling climate change and environmental crises? What would you like to be able to say?
  4. What do you think will help wake us up to the scale of climate change and environmental crises?