The eighth day of Christmas opened chilly and gray, the kind of chilly that calls one out of a warm cabin in hopes of a little fun and maybe some mystery. In a walk through the woods, we noticed the chalky silt layer on the leaves, a hickory stand still some yards out into Bear Creek, a washed-away footbridge, all signs of a recent flood. The rains of just a few days ago had spilled the creek far out of its banks, and though the waters were quickly receding, portions of the trail to the dam were now impassable.
We instead followed other trails to other amazements--tall rock outcroppings, a swinging bridge, a fairylike set of stone stairs, a large hollow tree.
I think of the magi on their journey, traveling to a place they had never been, and I wonder if their encounters were anything like this--dead ends, reroutings, alternate roads? (Not to mention that strange encounter with Herod!) What did they see along the way? Did the adventurous feeling, the urge toward mystery, that colored the start of their journey last through the months it took to reach their destination?
I cannot remember who said this to me, but as a younger person I was both mystified and encouraged by the statement that wherever life's paths might take me, God--the timeless and omnipresent One--would always be waiting for me in that future, and in fact was already there. I still take comfort in this truth, this mystery, especially when I feel unsure about my life's calling or direction.
This season, I also think of the mystery of the Word-made-flesh, the child who waited at the end of the Wise Men's road. Were there times they doubted they would see him? And yet, in the end, there he was.
It is the first day of a new year! A time for hope and a time to embrace the mystery that God, in all love, inhabits our past, present and future. We can follow the path, then, with confidence that the One who loves us best is there at every turn, every crossroads, every end.