While I didn't know it, the season changed. Suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, it's Advent. While we were busy burying a sister, relocating aged parents, trying to keep up (not very efficiently) with our daily tasks, the air turned cold and the leaves on the ground blew away. Winter descended while we weren't watching, and with it, came this silent, waiting season of our Christian year.
Some years (like last, and the one before that, and all the ones before that back to my infancy in faith), I'm completely caught up in this December wait. When our children were small, we participated in plenty of Advent activities--at church, at home, at friends' homes. While I drove them to school we'd talk about Mary growing big with child, and as I drove them home, they speculated about the wise men, ask me what why they brought those particular gifts (explaining that myrrh is used for embalming, frankinscence for perfume somwhat complicated when they were very young, and wishing for toys for birthdays. "But wasn't he too young to die?" my six year old son asked once.), wondered how that baby got into Mary's--or any other woman's--stomach. We lit candles, read the stories, talked, talked and talked some more. And waited. With bated breath we waited for that day to come. Waited for the evening service at church where we held candles (even the littlest among us), had a birthday cake at dinner for that baby we'd been waiting for.
But this year, it's half way through Advent, and I'm just now noticing. While we was busy going about the business of grieving, the Incarnation was in process. While we were doing the work of elder care, the Star was lighting the sky.
But then it hits me, it always catches us unaware. Flatfooted, so to speak. We aren't already on our way to Bethlehem. That's left for only the wisest among us, the prescient who needed a whole lot of warning to drive their camels all the way to Bethlehem from wherever it was they were coming. And most of us aren't prophets, like Anna and Simeon, who held on to this earth until they beheld Him. No, we're just your average shepherds, just taking care of the sheep in our fields, doing whatever it is we are called to care for. And some of us, sitting around the fire late at night, trying to keep warm, might even be napping. It's a long cold season for some of us, and a nap can refresh as well as anything. No, we aren't expecting anything supernatural in the night. In the season. Right in the middle of our busy working lives.
But there it is--a voice. One strong, heavenly voice. I can't even imagine what that voice must have sounded like, but I can guarantee this, it got those shepherds' attention. A single voice, then joined by a choir spread out across the night. And suddenly, whatever those shepherds were doing just a moment before--walking among their sheep, huddled around the fire, sleeping against their own crook--is completely forgotten. Forgotten like they didn't have a job, a responsibility, a single sheep. They might have been caught napping, but the sound of that voice shook off sleep so completely, they never looked back.
So maybe, just maybe, it doesn't matter what I've been doing this month or how caught up I've been in my own concerns, how busy I've been with the sheep in my own flock. Whether all I do it stare at the night, watching for the slightest change, or simply go about my business--business certainly He is in, He still comes. Maybe all that matters is that the night of my life--even the dark, grieving night of this time--is lit up by His coming. A supernatural star is shining in the snowy night, and perhaps, even if He has to awaken me from a sound sleep, He will come. Even now, I hear an angel chorus singing, and a voice telling me to run--yes, run!--to Him.