In her inaugural novel, “Wise Blood,” Flannery O’Connor pictures her protagonist restlessly sitting on a train.
“Hazel Motes sat at a forward angle on the green plush train seat, looking one minute at the window as if he might want to jump out of it, and the next down the aisle at the other end of the car. The train was racing through tree tops that fell away at intervals and showed the sun standing, very red, on the edge of the farthest woods.”
Leaning forward. Peering out. Looking back. Carried onward. This is Advent. Advent calls me into dreaming of newness within my own heart and family and neighborhood and society. Advent calls me into active, though no less uneasy, persistent hope for newness.
The prophet Isaiah dares me to dream. “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).
In our day, the air thickens with anxiety and anticipation, a far cry from Isaiah’s vision.
We doubt and trust and hope and act and despair and fear and fail and love. And the greatest of these is love, so I have been told. We are conflicted and confident. Our bones ache and our hearts hope.
Advent resonates with me more deeply than any other season of the church calendar because the mood of waiting and hope meets me where I am truly, today. I feel very much like Hazel Motes sitting on that train.
I yearn for the beloved community in which we delight in each other, we enrich each other, we discover in each other the depths of what it means to be made in God’s image. And a little child will lead us.
Perhaps, this is in part why I am a pastor. I am searching for the little child.
SAM CODINGTON is pastor of West Haven Presbyterian Church in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He and his life-partner Esther have a three-year-old son, Ezra, and can often be found running along the Tar River Trail.