ADVENT IS NEAR.....that time in the liturgical year when we begin Eschatological readings. These are “the end times”, even as we prepare for the celebration of the Lord's birth.
FREEZE UP IS NEAR....that time in the natural year when streams and rivers and lakes are covered in ice. When moving water appears to stop and a solid cover of ice forms, even as we prepare for the depths of winter. The timing of these two wondrous events is seated deep within our natural and within most Christian souls.
The liquid silver color of the Yellowstone River slides steadily towards its ultimate demise in the Missouri River, (which is where the Yellowstone River officially ends). The Missouri, appears to be nearly stopped, and is filling with ice chunks, as it’s meek downhill movement if often pushed upstream by the aggressive current of the Yellowstone.
Perhaps we can take a few moments to look at what Freeze Up may mean for us as we begin our (sometimes) crash landing into Advent. You may hear many people say things such as “Christmas is just so close!? What happened to Fall?” or “I’m not ready!”
And now, here we are: The First Sunday of Advent. There is movement. Always, there is movement. It’s not backwards, nor is it a static thing. Life marches on.
"Prepare the way of the Lord!" "Be watchful. Stay awake!" Scripture tells us sharply to be alert, ALWAYS. We don't know when the Lord will come again. We must trust the Lord to lead us with his Light of Truth and heed the voice of wisdom to keep our lamps full and our wicks trimmed, figuratively and literally.
Freeze Up tells us almost the same thing:
Stay awake! Be alert! We don't know how solid that white ice is! We don't know how safe that sidewalk is! Or how the road is, or even tomorrow's weather forecast. We must trust the Lord to bend our ears and hearts to wisdom, and heed safety and take care.
Both of these events herald the onset of winter. Many people don't associate winter with a season of preparation for new birth. The Lord has spent 3 seasons full of life. Perhaps it is time for that process to take a break.
That break may be to recoup energy and build up proteins and nutrition for next year's crop. And underneath the ice, there is movement. There is always movement. Things change, all the time. That is one of God’s plans for creation, and re-creation.
Advent, too, is at the end of a lengthy season. We call it Ordinary Time. Time for the Church to take a break from any complacency and rest. And the scripturally brief time following Advent are the readings of our Lord’s childhood, his Baptism, the preaching the Kingdom of God, his arrest, conviction and death upon a cross. Advent calls us to become more energized. More resolved to fill our "lamps" with the "oils" of reverence, awe and commitment. To shine the light to others, so that they may see the Light of Christ in their own lives. To trim our "wicks" with the edges of true repentance.
May the Freeze Up be a safe and beautiful thing, treated with our respect for God’s creation, and a discerning eye.
May our Advent be a beautiful and glorious entrance into the ongoing work of our salvation, studied with a faith-filled and watchful eye. May we all relish the Hope, the Peace, the Joy and the Love of this Holy Season.