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Reading Between the Signs

What's getting your attention these days? Holiday ads? COVID statistics? Football scores? The stock market report? Your grandchildren's Christmas lists?

We are pulled in many directions on a regular basis but the holidays seem to pile on the pressure to do and to be even more than usual. Are we seeing signs that it's getting to be too much to manage? Are we even looking for indications of anything we should be paying attention to?

We know about the squeaky door getting the grease, don't we? The child who misbehaves most. The collection agency which calls most frequently. The aching tooth that persists day after day. When something concerns us enough, we pay attention. Most of the time, we spring into action. We discipline the child. We pay the bill. We call the dentist. In other words, we wake up to the reality waiting to be noticed. So, what are we noticing these days? What alarms us? What tugs at our heartstrings? What lifts our spirits?

Asking questions such as these may help us focus. And when we focus, we see things we might not ordinarily see. Let's just call them signs. Because that's what they are. Something that points to a larger, deeper, wider something. Like the bruise that points to the damaged tissue and blood vessels beneath the surface. Like the tiny buds on a Christmas cactus that signal the profusion of color to come. Like the gathering of dark clouds indicating the churning of an imminent storm. What signs are getting our attention these days?

We start a new church year this Sunday as the season of Advent begins. And we are reminded that we are a people called to read between the signs. In the midst of the signs of our times, we are summoned to look for signs of God's time jubilantly popping up or quietly slipping in. A sprout of bright green emerging from a tree stump appearing to be all but dead. That's a prophetic image. Are we paying attention? A baby bundled in rags and laid in a makeshift crib. That's the Gospel-writer's story. What reality is waiting to be noticed? And most importantly, how are our lives changed as we read between the signs?

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