GWR semaphore signal at danger
For the last few weeks in the life of the Church many of us have been thundering along through the lectionary heading at full speed towards last Sunday’s celebration of Christ the King. With the locomotive of our faith roaring at full power and pulling all the glorious weight of the Christian Tradition behind us we have romped along the liturgical tracks, carried forward by the momentum of Easter and Pentecost. Until now. Advent Sunday is ahead and the signal has fallen to danger. Now we have to stop. The brakes screech on the wheels of the carriages, the locomotive shuts off power, and we begin to decelerate, drawing to a stop right next to the red signal. And we wait. And we wait. And we go on waiting, until speed becomes a memory. And in the waiting there is opened up space to reflect on the question of why we are making the journey at all. What destination have we in mind? In what direction of travel will the points be set? Has the signalman forgotten us? Experience tells us that the signal will be set at clear; that on Christmas Day we will be encouraged to apply the torque of all our expectations and faithfulness to the track once more. Slowly we will gain traction again. But the stopping and waiting are essential to our faith journey. In Advent we take nothing for granted and we rely wholly and solely on God’s promise to be birthed anew in our imaginations, ready for the next phase of our journey in discipleship and mission. So now we pause and come to a stop. Nothing moves. Silence descends. With the clamour of the train ceased, we can hear the soft, quiet sounds of longing all around and beyond us and discern the far-off cries of need echoing across the night sky. It is good to stop and wait. Only then can the way ahead become clear.