Sunday, November 28, 2010

Along the Way~An Advent Reflection

No doubt you’ve heard the euphemism before: “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” My kids used to roll their eyeballs every summer as I would repeat that line as we set off for our annual weeklong get-away at the seashore. Only an hour-and-a-half away by car, the Delaware seashore called to us. The kids couldn’t wait to get to the beach, but I knew a secret that they did not: the vacation began the moment we locked our seatbelts into place…and I was determined to make it so. In the twenty-something years between my growing up and theirs, something had occurred: a super highway had been built that could get you from one end of the state to the other in less than two hours. Gone was the unnecessary and inconvenient meandering trip through the back roads and marshes of Delaware. But as a child, I never considered those rides through the cornfields, saltwater marshes and small towns to be an annoyance or a hindrance. They were part of the journey, part of the scenery… I knew every small town, fruit stand, ramshackle farm and cornfield. I delighted in playing the “alphabet game,” couldn’t wait to stop at the bird sanctuary to see nesting Blue Herons, and savored every moment at the rest stop that had tables at which we enjoyed a languid pre-beach picnic. The sights I saw along the way were sentinels pointing me in the direction of my destination, but they also enhanced the journey. Truth be told, they were some of the most memorable parts of the whole expedition…they in fact, were an inseparable part of the whole vacation. And so, every summer, I would subject my children to this longer, ‘unnecessary’, and ‘inconvenient’ car ride. And every summer-what fun and joy we would encounter along the way!

Just as I learned on those summer vacations…drawing close to a destination always involves the process of getting there. So it is during the Advent Season, as we attempt to draw close to Jesus…the joy can be found in the ‘getting there.’

Awhile back, I received a “tweet” from Rick Warren (author of Purpose Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church) that said:

“Study the STOPS of Jesus, not just his steps-the interruptions he allowed. Every healing was an interruption! R U flexible?”

Those one-hundred and forty (or less) characters prompted me to think again about a phrase in scripture that I love…If you look at the life of Jesus as depicted in the gospels, an often overlooked phrase crops up fairly frequently: “along the way.” The Gospels are full of occasions in which Jesus and his followers stop “on their way” to their “intended goal” to do important life-affirming things.

We see an incredible example of this in Mark 5 where “on the way” to heal a dying girl, Jesus first heals the Geresene demoniac (of “we are Legion for we are many” fame), and then he also heals a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. In fact, by the time he gets to his “destination,” the ill girl has died. Undaunted, Jesus resurrects her. This story reminds us in a profound way that the ‘bus-stops’ and fellow sojourners that we meet along the way of life are as important as the destination. Through them, we learn the importance of being flexible enough to give these encounters the full attention they deserve. Finally, we see that everything always tends to pan out in the end, even if at first blush it appears that we have arrived “too late” to our destination.

With this in mind, as we wind our way through the Advent Season, may we make a special effort to be attuned to the ministrations of the Holy Spirit, and be ever alert for “divine appointments” as we seek to draw closer to Jesus. It is my prayer that we keep in mind that the re-discovering of the Christ-child is our ultimate goal…but may we also be ever aware to the possibilities of finding Him in our interactions with the sojourners whom we encounter “along the way.”

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