This year, I have decided to participate in the daily discipline of #AdventWord, a project of the worldwide Anglican Communion designed to create a global Advent calendar where we can share images and meditations that reflect the spirit of this season of preparation and contemplation. Today, we begin with #Awaken.
I am seldom awake to see the sun rise, but when I am, I often want to take a picture. Occasionally, circumstances favor this desire, and the results are invariably stunning.
One operative word in the preceding paragraph is occasionally. Not every dawn offers the rich palette of the scenes I have captured at Monument Valley, Lake Mattamuskeet, and Pine Knoll Shores. Most often, the sun rises with a gradual change from gray to white over concrete and asphalt, without the added interest of clouds or cypress trees or early fishermen silhouetted on a an ocean pier.
The other operative word is awake.
These two words remind me of a Sunday-school course I once planned and agonized and prayed over and finally brought to fruition–and then felt that my life was complete. I called it “Imagine Life with God.” As the first step in the process of encouraging the class members to recognize God’s presence in their lives, I reminded them that most of our hours and days are filled with humdrum, workaday details. Mary must have endured many days of dirty diapers and temper tantrums before she found her twelve-year-old son with the teachers in the temple court and slowly began understanding Gabriel’s Annunciation promise. And I am sure Saul had walked that hot and dusty road to Damascus countless mundane times unrecorded in scripture before Jesus spoke to him and struck him blind. Nor must we expect a daily sense of being on a spiritual mountaintop, for we would surely be disappointed.
However, we must be awake to that possibility. Sometimes God speaks to us with thunder, but most often we must listen for his “still, small voice”–a gentle whisper (I Kings 19:12). I discovered an illustration of that principle while walking alone on the beach and waiting for the calendar to change one New Year’s Eve. Looking out at the vast expanse of ocean, I suddenly saw a recurring pattern of light dancing across my field of vision. At first I couldn’t identify it–some species of phosphorescent flying fish, perhaps? But then I understood; I was seeing momentary reflections of the full moon on the crests of incoming waves. I immediately likened the phenomenon to what I called “quantum theology” because it helped me understand that God comes to us in small and discrete packets. All we have to do is open our eyes to the light–to be awake.
During the season of Advent that begins today, my prayer is that we will all be awake to the quiet blessings of the season as we await the coming of the Lord into our lives–again and again, no matter how many times we need, sometimes even with dancing lights and all the colors of the rainbow.