Day 4: I was here

I don’t know how long B Simpson spent here, but long enough – or often enough – to carve their name on a rock. In the stories of Genesis wherever the Israelites encountered God, they would set up a rock to mark the place: I was here; God was here. When we are following an unknown route, it can be reassuring to know that someone else has been that way before . 

… hope is like a firm and steady anchor for our souls. In fact, hope reaches behind the curtain and into the most holy place. Jesus has gone there ahead of us… Hebrew 6:19-20a

Day 3: Spot the jam sandwich

If you have been walking in the mountains in Switzerland, you will know to look out for jam sandwiches. These stripes painted on to rocks mark the mountain paths in between the sign posts. They are your confirmation that you are indeed still on the right path.

And whether you turn to the right or turn to the left, your ears will hear a message behind you: “This is the way, walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 

Isaiah 52:7

Day 2: a positive sign

Circular blue traffic signs in the UK give positive directions. This blue cycle signs instructs users that this route is for cyclists. If you are a cyclist it confirms your right to cycle along the path. 

Positive signs are always an encouragement. God knows we need affirmation and encouragement as we journey through life.

 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight” Isaiah 42: 1a 

And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11

Advent Day 1: point me in the right direction!

Whilst having a person on constant standby to point travellers in the right way might be fail proof, it would be unsustainable. Instead we can replace the person with a sign, a sign with arms and perhaps even hands with pointing fingers.

Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Psalm 25:4

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” John 14:6a

Advent Reflections: Reading the Signs

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light… 

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

(Isaiah 9:2, Isaiah 7:14 and Luke 2:11) 

The readings during Advent and especially those used in carol services are full of pointers and signs, telling us that amazing things are about to happen, all will be transformed, good times are coming. Advent is a time of preparing for and looking forward to both the celebration of Jesus – the messiah’s- birth, and the coming of the end of times, of the last day. The former has a certainty about it, an event, ie Christmas, whose shape can know and predict: its predictability firmly cemented by tradition. The latter, whilst it is something we are pretty sure will happen, we have no idea when or how it will be, nor are we even sure that we will recognise it if when we see it.

If we reflect a little more – especially after the uncertainty that covid created last year – we may also realise that even the shape of Christmas is not a certainty. Each year we may find that our reaction to the festivities, however familiar, is unpredictable; and that our experience of encountering Jesus as God incarnate is equally uncertain. 

The Christian life can be understood as a journey but where that route goes or to what destination it brings us is not clear. This  equally applies to our everyday lives. We may have a plan : school and perhaps university, then a job; marriage, a house, and a family; retirement, a pension and grandchildren – but we know that these are not certain it’s and, in our current physical and political world, have even less certain than they were in the past. 

Thinking of Advent as a season of signs, we might see those signs not as destination boards that confirm where we will end up, nor as a timetable. Rather we might see them as way markers that confirm that we are on the right path. So even if we can’t see our final destination, if we can’t see what’s over the hill or around the  next corner, at least we can be certain that we are on the right road.