Psalm 63, 98 (Morning)
Psalm 103 (Evening)
“Listen my children, and you shall hear…”
For some reason the opening line of Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride jumps out front and center in my brain. Perhaps it’s because today’s reading are full of opportunities to ponder voices. Even today’s Psalms speak with the voices of nature, humanity, and music.
In Isaiah, we are reminded of the anguished voice of childbirth and the pain involved in creating something new. In Hebrews, it’s the voice of an awe-inspiring powerful God–one that shakes not only all of Earth, but all of heaven, too. Finally, in our Gospel, we have the prophetic voice of John the Baptist–a somewhat noticeable voice, but one that also admits humility and anticipation for the one greater than himself.
Wow. That’s an awful lot of soundtrack for a liturgical season with a reputation for quiet anticipation.
Well, truth is, what we call “silent” isn’t really silent. Not unless one lives in a vacuum, anyway. Anyone who’s ever done Centering Prayer or a silent retreat can identify with the voices in the room–the creaking of the building, the sound of the wind outside, the ticking of the clock in the room. Maybe even the sound of one’s own respiration or heartbeat. Being alone isn’t really being alone. Being silent doesn’t mean that we exist in silence.
I wonder sometimes if the voices we do hear in our quiet times are a clue. Is recognizing the ticking clock really a deep urge to act on something before it’s too late? Is the wind telling us to stretch out our arms like wings and trust God to carry us someplace, unfettered by our own wills? Are the noises of a settling building frame encouraging us to live in the tension of a difficult situation until we can discern God’s call? Do the sounds of our own alive-ness ask us to help those who feel their own lives slipping away into the fog of seasonal depression?
Like John the Baptist, we are anticipating the arrival of the one greater than ourselves, the birth of the One that makes all things new. Birth, however, is not without labor. That said, each of us can be trained through our spiritual disciplines to breathe with the labor pains, rather than at odds with them. It takes time, practice, and the voices of those who coach us. It takes giving up our illusions of alone-ness and instead, beginning to hear God’s voice in the most unlikely places.
What are the voices you seem to be hearing the most this Advent, and where are they taking you?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid. Dr. Evans recently returned from a mission trip from the Diocese of Missouri to the Episcopal Diocese of Lui, South Sudan. http://luinetwork.diocesemo.org