Midnight came early last evening. Or so it seemed.
We’d been invited to our daughter and son-in-law’s place, you see, for a bonfire-and-pizza party. Which is to say: We were outdoors, and socially distant, as befits this strange environment in which we all now live.
But not to worry: The bonfire and pleasant company combined to make our late-November picnic a very comfortable place to be. And, in point of fact, a thing of great beauty – a chance to savor both the setting sun and the haunting autumn palette deployed in its wake across the sky.
This is beauty easily missed, I realized, because I am not much inclined to spend the sunset-hour outdoors this time of year. The light fades quickly, and a November chill inevitably sets in. Then before you know it, it’s midnight – or so it might appear. The horizon drenched in indigo ink: Surely, it’s late, fast approaching my bedtime.
Only it’s barely beyond 6 p.m., according to the clock.
Fortunately, I had two energized grandsons at the ready, prodding me to engage in a wide range of side-yard adventures as the rest of the family huddled around the fire. No party-pooping allowed, not for this dear ol’ Gramps!
Then later – after the boys had in fact been put to bed – something of an Advent lesson began to stir in me.
My “premature midnight” helped me to see something important, something I likely would have overlooked…had our pizza party been conducted indoors.
Namely this: Darkness makes it ever-so-difficult to keep watch. We want the night to hurry on. And as the prophet Isaiah points out, we’re not above blaming God for any challenges we might encounter during our vigil:
Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways,
and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
In our fears, in our brokenness, we can be easily shaken. We lose patience with the slow work of redemption. Our hearts pine for a dawn that seems impossibly distant. But St. Paul assures us:
…you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So as this Advent begins in the gloaming, we would do well to heed the pointed instruction from the lips of Jesus:
“What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
May we all be blessed with the grace to stay strong and remain faithful to our Advent call.
Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.