Today, the 4th Sunday of Advent, is another of those grey damp winter days when I wonder again just how I make it through each year from early winter until spring. I am not unhappy about anything or suffering from a bad mood, but I feel the familiar longing for green and the fragrance of growing things. I know that winter will seem to stretch on for a long time and that the waiting will be a challenge, as it always is.
The weary waiting is timely, however because it serves to remind me all over again of the spirit of Advent. If our culture had not taken the Advent season and turned it into one long string of frenzied partying, we would all have a better sense of the solumness of waiting for that which we hope for but cannot see, much as Isreal did before Christ's birth. In some ways, January and February might be a better illustration of that historical time, for in those months the tiresomeness of winter really sets in and we all long for the changes of spring, though they seem so far off. At least I feel that way. It is in those months, and perhaps even more importantly now during the season's glitz and distracton, that I must make the choice to look for signs of God and the joy they bring.
The exercise of looking and seeking is one I come back to over and over in my writings and I was reminded of its importance, once again, during yesterday's morning walk. It was also a grey, damp chilly day... one in which the matted grasses, dried meadow plants, the soggy ground and the dripping trees were all various shades of brown and the sky was overcast and heavy. Not the most joyous of mornings from all appearances, but still one to be out and walking. As I approached the overgrown streamside, movement down in the vegetation caught my eye and the more I looked, the more I discovered. Buffy brownish Song and White-Throated Sparrows were literally everywhere, though they blended into the vegetation so completely that without their movement giving them away they were almost invisible. Little grey Juncos flitted along the road's shoulder and stately White-Crowned Sparrows made their way through the grasses while from overhead came the sound of Downy Woodpeckers and White-Breasted Nuthatches tapping the tree trunks for insects. These are the times, standing still and drinking in the life around me, that see me through the winter though, truth-be-told, every year I seem to forget for a while.
It was while I was watching and listening to the birds and thinking about the goldenrod in front of me that the discussion from my last post came to mind, and so my Advent question. Sometimes my mind seems to travel along two tracks at the same time and this was one of those moments. As I was thinking about the goldenrod's roots and basal crown being alive through the winter though the stalk is clearly dead, I was also thinking about Jesus' dying and the discussion of Him being the only example within Creation of death and subsequent living beyond death. And now I am wondering...Jesus was the mysterious combination of being God and man and clearly the human part of Jesus died at Calvary. But what about the God part, for lack of a more sophisticated way of expressing it? Did God that was in Jesus live on through the human death, as the goldenrod roots live on though the stalk dies? When we talk about Jesus' death, do we actually mean just the human side of Him? Somehow the answer to the question seems to matter, though I'm not sure just why. I hope that you who are wiser than I might enter into the thinking and into the discussion.
In the meantime, I hope for all who are fellow-waiters, that your Advent will be filled with moments of seeking and of finding signs of life and of God.