Pay Attention: Advent, Christmas, and All Those Signs


Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.

Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Andy and I are wired differently when it comes to directions. He relies on monuments and unusual buildings to chart the map in his mind. I prefer words – RIGHT on Elm street, LEFT on 3rd street, and so on and so forth. Usually after driving somewhere once I’m able to remember it without the directions. It’s one of the few things I feel good enough to brag about it. I just have a good sense of direction, and don’t even mind getting lost once in a while. It helps fill out the picture of a city in my mind as I inadvertently discover all the ways the streets and neighborhoods connect to each other. But, I suppose showing up somewhere 45 minutes late isn’t ideal even if I’m figuring out how to not get lost in the future.

Bloomington has been pretty easy to navigate around despite the random name changes of streets and lack of signage sometimes (It took me a bit to figure out the bypass…and Country Club to Winslow to Rogers? WTH?). I feel pretty confident I can figure something out even without Google Maps with me (I got rid of my smartphone so have to look up directions and memorize them beforehand). Andy is doing pretty well, too, much better than when we lived in Easton – I would get frantic, last-minute calls from him whenever Ellis had a vet check-up. Because he could never remember how to get there. Never. Ever. Even after almost 5 years of living there.

It’s ok, though right? We all have our MOs and little quirks. Whenever I’m trying to decide something for him – like a sandwich to order – he always tells me, “Just think about what you would want to eat – and choose the opposite for me.” Likewise, lately with directions I tell him, “Whenever you feel the urge to turn left, turn right.” Even though we might see the exact same sign we might remember it differently. Interpret it differently. See it differently.

This season went by so unbelievably fast. My mind is still spinning. But I still caught glimpses. Even when I wasn’t really looking for the signs – I caught a shimmer here and there. Church on Sundays was a little like a map giving me some directions here and there, and though I got lost most of the time – lost in the speed of disappearing days – there were moments of radiance. And that’s one of the best gifts of this season – a moment of radiance in the darkness pointing to Jesus’ birth, and the meaning of God’s incarnation.

Going back to the grind – more seasons of fatigue – but carrying that light with me, and it is good.

Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality.
With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts.
Miracles occur,
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles.
The wait’s begun again,
The long wait for the angel.
For that rare, random descent.