First Sunday in Advent (Rolf Olson)

Make me to know thy ways, O Lord
            teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me,
            for thou art the God of my salvation
            For thee I wait all the day long.

(Psalm 25: 4&5)
 
On a Black Hills hiking trip with members of Luther League many years ago, I proudly broke in my brand new Kelty backpack and relished the chance to hike something other than a county park in Western Minnesota.  Our guide was a cool college guy, majoring in philosophy with an eye on theology and a backpack loaded with books.  He taught us how to look for blazes on the trees, and failing that, to look for little piles of stones when the rocks were many and trees were few.  He taught us the paths, and he encouraged us to learn how to read the way, lessons that I have applied over the years as my son and I hiked sections of the Superior Hiking Trail.

When one of our party was stricken with heat exhaustion, our guide knew how to leave our path, strike out through the woods, and arrive at a gravel road that would take him quickly to Outlaw Ranch so that he could return with transportation for the camper.  She was never seriously at risk, I think, but the whole group was on pins and needles as we slowly followed the trail ourselves to the crossing with the gravel road where we would wait for our guide’s return.  Don’t worry, our seminary intern was with us the whole time, and the camper suffering heat exhaustion was relieved of her load, given regular rests, and lots of help on the trail until we reached the road.  A short while later, our guide appeared driving one of the ranch’s pickup trucks.  We sent our friend off to be checked by the doctor, and we continued down the trail to the campsite identified by our guide, who joined us well after dark while we sat around the campfire under the stars.  Everyone was relieved to know that our friend was going to be just fine, had already settled in with a group at camp, and would be riding horses with them for the rest of the week.  “Not bad,” we thought.

So what does this little story have to do with Advent?  I had set out on that backpacking adventure with hopes of learning some new practical pointers about camping on the trail and hopes of enjoying the Black Hills’ beauty and majesty.  Thanks to our wonderful guide, these hopes were definitely realized, but the week taught me a great deal more than I could ever have hoped.  This advent, Christ comes to us again, as indeed, he abides with us daily and we with him.  We may hope for certain lessons each Advent, but God has much more to teach us. Indeed, we have much more to learn than we can ever hope to anticipate learning.  I had gone on that Luther League trip hoping for a certain set of experiences and lessons, but I came away with much more.  Beyond our guide’s lessons about the trail, we learned about self-reliance, patience, inner strength, faith, and fellowship.   May this Advent bring you more than you could ever hope for in new lessons and good memories.

Prayer

Teach us your lessons, Lord Christ, as you come to us this Advent season. By your mercy, you give our lives direction and meaning.  May we be open to your guidance and willing to learn your ways.

Amen
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