Earlier this Advent, I took advantage of a warmer night and walked my 14-year-old dog. Ophelia (my dog—yes, she’s named after the character in Hamlet) and I have had many walks together since I adopted her as a two-year old from the Humane Society. I’m grateful to Ophelia for all of these many, many walks because she affords me the opportunity to simply walk outside, attempt some quiet thoughtfulness, and simply behold the beauty of Creation. I’ve seen many blooming flowers, fiery-colored trees, and snowflakes falling like crystals because of her insistence upon taking a stroll morning, noon, and/or night. (I also chose my dissertation topic and decided to start dating the friend who would become my husband while walking Ophelia—but these are stories for another time.)
This particular night, walking with my dog after Baby was in bed, I sighed a grateful breath for simply being outside in the night air. And, as it was too dark to observe flowers or trees (and it certainly wasn’t cold enough to snow), I looked up. My eyes widened as I saw a sight that I simply NEVER see in my home city of Indianapolis: I saw stars. And these weren’t just any stars—I could see Pegasus and Andromeda, Draco, and Taurus. I think I even saw Mars. I was amazed.
Now, I realize that some of you who live in more picturesque locales may be smirking quietly at my city-girl surprise. But when is the last time you have had reason to look at the stars? For myself, I know that, at quieter moments in my life, I found more time to sit or stand there looking at the sky. I distinctly remember my little brother and I pressing our noses to the car window as our parents drove us home on county roads at night. We spoke in hushed voices about the dark sky shot through with stars, and how, the longer we looked, the more stars emerged from the surrounding blackness. In the different places I’ve lived and visited, I’ve seen planets, shooting stars, and the glorious Milky Way. But, all these visions are dim memories at present. In my fair city, it is, in fact, easier to make out the model of an airplane than it is to see Ursa Major. There is too much electric buzz, too much flash, too much noise in my world for me to perceive any ancient worlds of light. In fact, I’m fairly certain that, if the Star of Bethlehem shone over Lucas Oil Stadium, I would completely miss it.
So, what does dog walking and star gazing have to tell us about Advent? My vision of the night sky on that dark Advent night was a sign to me I’m still trying to interpret—something about the gift of light, of resilience, of God’s Peace and Hope which is present all around us…if we could only open our eyes to see it. The unseen stars of God are forgotten in the midst of the noise, the busyness, the distractions, the hurt, and the disappointments which crowd around our hearts and prevent them from hearing God’s word: Rejoice—again I say to you rejoice, for today in the City of David, a savior has been born to you (Luke 2:11).
So take a walk some silent night this Christmas Season—make room for the brightness of God. Ophelia and I will hope to do the same.