Last Sunday one of our Bishops came to visit. She was there to preside over baptisms, confirmations, and receptions. She also had the privilege of preaching on the first Sunday of Advent.
(For those of you who are unfamiliar, Advent is the first season in the Church year. The first Sunday is like New Year's Day in the Episcopal Church. The focus of Advent is Jesus' coming birth, of course, but it is more than that. It's about hope, and expectation, and longings fulfilled. At its core, Advent is about the goodness of God to His people, about the fact that He loved us so much, He sent His only Son to live among us (John 3:16).)
I'm going to be honest here - I only half-listened to the sermon. My husband and I are more-than-normal exhausted. It took everything we had to drag ourselves to church. We did it for the kids. (I'm just being honest.) It's not that we don't value church - we do. But we also value sleep.
So there I was, sitting in the pew, trying to stay awake and pay attention. Phrases kept drifting in and out of my conscious mind. Something about beginnings and endings and intentionality and living in faith.
At some point, her point began to register with me. She was talking about the chosen readings for the day, in particular the Gospel reading from Luke. It's a pretty bleak passage with which to start Advent. I mean, you'd expect to hear some shiny, happy passage about babies and angels, right? Not so, she said. In Advent, in the Church, in this journey called faith, we often start at the ending, rather than the beginning, for it is when we know the ending before we start that we can keep the faith after we begin.
In other words, it's in the assurance of things hoped for where we find the faith to continue walking daily, even when the path seems dark and the journey wearisome. Knowing the end of the story gives us the grace to live intentionally today. And tomorrow. And the next day.
As I sat and listened to Bishop Harrison, I nodded and registered and silently agreed, knowing I would gnaw internally on her words for a while until they revealed some deeper flavor, some nugget of wisdom for which my tired brain searched.
And today, I got a taste of how God might use her words to impact my life. Not in some major, deeply meaningful way, like I expected. Nope. That's not always how God works. Sometimes He's profoundly practical.
Today, as I sat down to my novel, I heard Him say, "begin at the end."
I tried to make it more complicated than it needed to be. I perked up in my chair and began praying, asking God to explain the deeper meaning behind His words. I was looking for some wise insight, something profound. It quickly became clear to me that He was being literal. I simply needed to begin writing the last chapter of my book.
I hope you're smiling here, because I was. Isn't it awesome that we serve a god like that? A god who cares about the very mundane details of our processes? I'm in danger of getting stuck in my writing process. He knows that. So He encourages me. Tangibly. Practically. I have a place to go now - to the end. Something I never would have thought to do.
But I'll bet you that, as I write the end before I have finished the beginning, the middle will be all that much more rich for it.
So are there places in your life where you need to be reminded of the ending, the hope to which you cling, the point toward which you navigate? Are there places where you need to simply let Him speak practically, specifically and "chill out" a little on the deeper meaning of things?
Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria today.
(P.S. For more info on Advent, including some ideas for ways to celebrate, click here.)