I love these verses from the Jewish prophet Habakkuk.
To understand them you have to picture the scene.
The walled city built on a hill overlooking a long valley.
A watchman in the tower high enough to survey the entire valley.
The instruction to the prophet is to write the vision large enough that the runner in the valley, looking up at the city and the watchtower can see and read the vision as he continues on his way. And so I wonder…how large would the vision have to be in order to be seen?
Here is the passage:
I will stand at my watchpost,
And station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what God will say to me,
And what God will answer concerning my complaint.
Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
Make it plain on tablets so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
It speaks of the end on does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
It will surely come, it will not delay.
And here is my reflection for the First Sunday in Advent.
Out there they have been at it now for a number of weeks.
They have wrap cars with bows and opened early and stayed open late and filled the air around us with songs about Santa and silver bells and red-nosed reindeer. Now it is our turn. Here. In this space set aside for holy reminders of how life and world are to be. And, maybe…
And, I hope, in our homes, as well.
Our turn to get ready for Christmas.
But instead of cars with bows and songs about Santa, here we light a candle.
A subtle, stubborn reminder of the presence and promise of light despite whatever darkness we know and experience that seeks to push in upon our lives. And instead of the looked for arrival of Santa, the songs we sing are about hope and peace and the coming of God.
Out there the words of the day are rush and merry.
Here our words are watch and wait.
Watch with the diligence and dedication of the watchman on the tower.
Wait with the urgency and the patience of those who mark the hours until dawn.
Now it is our turn.
To pay attention and to get ready.
And not just to rush through the holiness of these days.
So, how will you do it?
My guess is you have the decorating and the gift giving down pat.
Now, how will you watch and wait and get ready for Christmas and not just for Santa?
I have four suggestions for paying attention in these Advent days.
But, what you do is not nearly as important as your doing something.
Setting aside a few moments each day.
Otherwise the days rush by far too quickly.
Make your own Advent wreath. All you need is four candles. Maybe five if you want to light a candle on Christmas Day. This week light one of the candles. Beginning next Sunday light two candles. The week after that three. Then, after you have lit the candles, read the reflection in the Advent calendar for that day. Maybe even take a moment to talk about what it means and where it touches your life and world.
Similar to Idea One.
One of the images of Christmas is light in the darkness pulled from the beginning of John’s Gospel where it is written: The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. So what if each evening you turn the lights down or off.
And, for a moment, allowed the darkness to settle around you.
Then, lIght the candles.
And, in the candlelight, ask everyone to share where they saw or were Light that day.
Where they caught a glimpse of God or were that presence to another.
We have a list of words associated with Advent and Christmas.
One word for each day.
Think about what that word means to you.
Find a way to turn that reflection into a picture or a few words and send it to me.
I will post what you send on the church’s Facebook page and Pinterest page.
We will also print them out and add them be our hallway bulletin boards as we move through Advent.
Expand your Christmas giving.
And, if you have children include them in that experience.
Beginning next Sunday there will be our annual Dove Tree in Fellowship Hall.
We will be collecting gifts that will be shared with children at Neighbors Link.
When you go shopping you can give your children the assignment of deciding on what extra food you will buy and drop off here at the church for the Food Pantry. The goal is not as charity. But a daily reminder of that other whom God names as our sister and our brother. And that there is something about the promise and hope of Christmas that includes the dream of that day when no child will go to bed hungry and no parent will put their child to bed and then turn away and cry because there is not enough.
The world out there waits for Santa. And for presents. And for holiday cheer.
Here, we wait for something more.
And, while I love Santa and gift giving and holiday cheer…
And, I don’t even mind going to the mall.
What my heart needs…
And, what my soul needs…
And, maybe even, what the world needs…
Is that something more.
I need that reminder of a hope that is strong enough…
Strong enough to stand face to face with the anguish and uncertainty felt in Ferguson and in Bedford and beyond. A hope that we will and can find a better way.
I need that reminder of the promise and possibility of tomorrow.
A vision clear enough and compelling enough that it helps me find that balance between wants and needs.
I need a reminder to dream.
To dream the dream of a woman pregnant with a child even in challenging and confusing times. A dream brave enough to see beyond the uncertainty of today to the promise of tomorrow.
This Christmas I need to get ready for more than Santa.
I want to get ready for something more than Santa.
What about you?