“A map says to you, ‘Read me carefully, follow me closely, doubt me not… I am the earth in the palm of your hand.’” ― Beryl Markham
(About this quote: Beryl Markham (born October 26, 1902) was a noted horse trainer, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and the author of the memoir West With the Night, which was envied and praised by Hemingway.)
Some say that with GPS, we’ll lose the ability to read maps. I guess that’s possible. Over time, we’ve lost a lot of the skills to find our way from one place to another. I don’t know anyone who reads the stars to find their way to a new restaurant. I haven’t met anyone who regularly follows the path of a creek to do out-of-town business. Less and less, we give directions like “go ½ mile on Charlie Brown’s Road (which is not the actual name of the road but apparently, at some time, someone named Charlie Brown lived somewhere on that road) and turn left when you come to the barn that used to have the white trim but is now all red.” Most likely, when we want to find our way from one place to another, we punch an address into our cell phone and wait for the automated voice to tell us to turn left or right and on which side of the street we will find our destination. Now, instead of gazing into the heavens to find our way, we wait for a disembodied voice to tell us where to go.
The irony is, this amazing marvel of technology is able to help us find our way because of satellites orbiting around us in space. I suppose you could say that we are once again “finding our way” in the world because something is “speaking” to us from the heavens. We may not be looking at the stars for guidance but the heavens are still talking to us.
Advent is the church’s call to set aside the things that keep us from hearing the message of heaven and gaze back into the stars to “see” the way that God sets before us. It’s a way of angels speaking to lowly shepherds about the birth of a king who rests in a feeding trough. It’s a way of dreamers hearing the longed-for promise of justice and peace that will come true in unimaginable ways. It’s the way where danger and fear are outsmarted by wisdom–wisdom that is not defined by power or corruption but centered on awe and praise. Advent calls us to lift our faces again to the heavens to see and hear the way God would have us go to find the new thing God is doing in creation.
May we, this Advent season, from time to time, lift our heads from GPS, Facebook, cookbooks, checkbooks, catalogues, wish lists, and screens (both big and small) and peer into the heavens to listen for song the of the angels reminding us that God is with us to always show us the way.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving on your way to the first Sunday of Advent (celebrated November 26).