A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” —Isaiah 40:3-4
When I read the scripture and ponder this picture, I think of the 26 Christmases I’ve spent at Trinity. I think of “Once in Royal David’s City,” and all the children who have sung that opening stanza. I think of Messiah and Frank Sencindiver singing “Comfort Ye,” or Jeffrey Abbot singing “The Trumpet Shall Sound.” I think of those who died too young: Eric, Julie; or those we lost suddenly: Michael, Jim. I think of those who sang with us to a ripe old age: Jack, Polly. So many others absent from our vision, but still singing with us on a different shore. We may not see them in this picture, but after all we only see through a glass, darkly.
Advent prepares us for the coming of a child, but it also calls us to prepare for that time when we will all be reunited with those who have gone before. As we embrace the newborn baby, so we embrace new and exciting changes in our lives. But no seasons remind us of the importance of tradition as do Advent and Christmas. Because in the midst of change, we also find comfort by revisiting things of the past and experiencing them anew.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite petitions from the ancient order of Compline: “Be present, O merciful God…so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness.”
Dr. Charles Staples