Click here for a printable PDF of this post that includes a devotional journal page.
I watched as the last minute ticked on the clock, then hit the off button just as the alarm sounded. I’d already been awake at least half an hour, even though I had crawled beneath the covers just a short while before. My gear was carefully laid out, and I dressed as the coffee brewed. The house was quiet. A few short words passed between my friend Bobby and me. The night before, we had hashed out who was going to hunt where. I checked my gear one more time, filled the Thermos and headed for the door.
Taking a few steps out into the predawn air, I stopped and smelled the wind, let the cold complete the waking-up process. And I listened. Coyotes yelped and cried off in the distance, far enough away to be faint in sound, but close enough to send a brief shiver up my spine. I smiled, switched on my light and started the walk to the blind.
Clouds covered moonless sky; only the things in the tight circle thrown by my headlamp had any definition. Everything else was dark and looming, formless and flat. I knew the route to my spot well enough by following each landmark as it appeared in the circle, but without the headlamp I’d have been utterly lost, wandering into mesquite thickets or stumbling over the rocks.
When I reached the stand I climbed the ladder, slowly opened the door, checked for owls and wasps, crawled in and settled my rifle and binoculars. I poured some coffee and switched off the headlamp to await the dawn. This might be my favorite part: the waiting and watching as the light of the dawn started to creep onto the scene before me.
And here’s the thing: Stuff changes as the sun brightens the landscape. Shapes morph and move. Objects become one thing and then another: bushes become hogs or deer and then, as the light gets brighter, turn back into bushes.
The light changes everything.
The Christian calendar starts with Advent; the first of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas is our New Year’s Day. This has deep theological significance: It helps us find our bearings in a world that seduces, demands, bribes and threatens us to live according to its calendar and time table. It helps us form an alternative imagination about how time, the seasons and all of our activities are to be arranged and prioritized. It helps bring light into an otherwise dark landscape.
This kind of reorientation requires more from us than to just absorb facts. It is fueled by the supernatural revelation that comes from light and sound: a physical, emotional and spiritual encounter. In his Gospel account, this is what John describes for us, what he invites us to experience. It introduces a new way of understanding, encountering and following God. It re-creates everything by reaching back to the first day of creation and forward to the magnificent end. We are going to spend the next few months digging deep into John’s letters, starting this Sunday as we celebrate the birth of the one John puts at the center of it all, Jesus.
Come, let’s adore Him.
John Ray is a missionary, spiritual director and the elder responsible for teaching at Grace Church of NWA. John and his wife Jane spend way too much time packing and unpacking, vacuuming dog hair and chasing raccoons off their porch. They much prefer sharing good food and good coffee with friends, reading and trying to keep up with their daughters.