Advent 1: Owls
Returning the last special serving dish to the china cabinet marks the passing of Thanksgiving. Finally, Jon and I sit down to watch TV. We are exhausted after all the holiday preparations and clean-up. The chatter from the TV lulls us both into the mindless, distracting, imaginary world of TV land.
Then, through the TV noise, I hear them! They have returned! Outside, two great horned owls call to each other in the silent darkness. Jon mutes the TV, and we listen more intently. The soothing tone of their wooing hoots brings a calming presence.
Jon is amazed by my ability to hear the owls over the sound of a loud TV. Something inside me must always be listening for their call. A subconscious listening that cannot be controlled or manipulated must be the way my soul listens for God – an affirming observation to make on the eve of Advent.
"Listening is about being present, not just being quiet." Krista Tippett
When thinking about the Advent season, I’ve been concerned that I’ve drifted too far away from God to hear him. The past few years have been an inward journey of sifting and shedding, leaving me to wrestle with inner uncertainty. But, hearing the owls last night taught me that my soul listens without any conscious effort on my part. I only need enough awareness to notice God’s gentle voice in a loud, cluttered, busy world.
What a fabulous gift from God to begin the Advent season!
Advent is an invitation to practice listening. Waiting patiently and silently in the darkness for new birth, whether it’s the birth of Jesus or new birth within, ignites an unseen hope. Listening creates a door for me to enter into the darkness and engage the mystery of God for the healing of my soul.
If you are new to the season of Advent, I invite you to consider how listening might increase your awareness of the more life-giving gifts of hope and mystery this Christmas.
Image taken in 2014 of one of the great horned owls who made a nest and raised two baby owls in our back pasture.