Sunday, December 12, 2010

A street sign

Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see..." From the Gospel of Matthew, appointed for this Third Sunday of Advent

John the Baptist was in doubt. He reached out to Jesus, who replied with more than words - he gave John reassuring, visible evidence. "...the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

We need signs. The most faithful among us have episodes or even seasons of doubt, fear and despair.

Advent is full of signs - dreams and visions, prophetic promises and fulfilling events, a guiding star. But for those of us who, like John the Baptist, have already followed the big signs and believed, there remains the need for encouraging markers in daily life. We need reassurance that the difficult path of faith is the right one.

I was feeling a bit down and sorry for myself this a.m. I'm going to spare you all the whiny details of why. Along with the mood, I was shoveling a Camry-wide path through my post-blizzard driveway so I could get my car down to the street. The city had plowed the road, thank God, but that left a formidable snow wall across the end of my driveway. I created a path just wide enough to get my car through and started to head in for coffee and a hot shower before church.

Then I noticed a neighbor's garage door open; out he came with a wave to start his own version of the job I'd just done. I still had shovel in hand, so I went over to help him out.

We got his path done in short order, but I realized that those extra minutes were going to make me late to church if I took my hot shower. So I guzzled my coffee and I shaved, but kept on my less than pleasant snow clearin' clothes. I still had more than half of my driveway, my sidewalks and the walkway to the front door to clear after church.

I got home after the lightly attended services to find my whole driveway and the sidewalks cleared of snow - all I had to do was a few feet of walkway. I have to assume that the neighbor had done all that to say "Thanks," but he did work way out of proportion to the few shovels full I'd given him earlier.

It was a sign for me. It was a sign of kindness and generosity against my grim and self-absorbed mood. It was a sign of getting back from having given, and getting back way more than was given away. It was a sign that doing the right thing was, well, the right thing to do.

My morning blues plus the Gospel about John the Baptist had me thinking about the need for signs. What a blessing to have one waiting right there on my street.

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