The prompt came in my inbox mid-September. It is a tough task to think about Advent when in the throes of a fall programming. What does a chill in the air feel like? What does early evening darkness look like? What do hymns of hope and anticipation sound like?
The Advent theme at Lake Shore Baptist Church this year is Waiting for the Light. This is a shorter version of the prompt:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” These words focused the attention of the generation who first heard them on the coming reign of God. Like the ancient people who heard the prophetic words, we, too, walk through the world seeking any sign of God’s light to illumine the darkness and help us take the next step. On our journey through life – and through Advent – we learn that divine things can be experienced here and now.
Here are the words I submitted:
I do this thing at night when figuring out what time to set my alarm. I like to get up and out the door while it’s still dark. I like to watch the sun rise as I’m breathing with my whole being. There are some practical advantages to hitting the pavement, as it were, in the darkness of the dawn. I tend to run faster when it is both cooler and darker. If I get my run in first thing in the morning, I don’t have to dread it the rest of the day. When figuring out what time to set my alarm, if I am going to get my run in first thing in the morning, some mornings that makes the “first thing” in the morning quite early indeed.
But I have found holy moments in these early morning runs. To be sure, there is something holy and life-giving about feeling the ground beneath my (sometimes) swiftly moving feet, as the breath huffs and puffs into my lungs and back out. When I am mindful, I am wholly thankful for movement, breath and agility. (Though if I am being honest, I know I am not always mindful enough of these gifts.)
My favorite mornings to run are the deep fall and early spring mornings. When I get up on these mornings, when the chill is still sharp and bone-awakening, I can see my breath in the air – the white puffs of my own life set against the still-dark morning. In many ways these runs have me more aware of those around me as I am looking out for vehicles who are not as aware of my presence. There is a strange solidarity of the early morning – of being some of the only few souls awake and aware of what this side of sunrise looks like. My favorite thing, though about my early morning runs is the way the sky changes with every step. As night is giving way to dawn, as the moon rises on one side of the sky and the sun begins to emerge from another, with every step, the new day breaks in. Sometimes it feels as with every quickening, cold breath I am breathing the very morning into existence. (Which is, yes, a tad dramatic, but it certainly takes my mind off the sharp incline of the hills along my route!)
There is something transcendent in the early morning hours as the streets around me start to wake up, and by the end of my route it feels as though the sun itself is chasing me home. I think of God’s own light, God’s own in-breaking, which happens regardless of our presence to witness it, but how beautiful and haunting bearing witness can be.