I ignored the sign.
I turned, and the moment I turned, a police officer greeted me, motioning me to pull over to my right. Another officer did the exact same thing to the car behind me. Within moments, I had been given a summons - a ticket for $91.00 for failing to pay attention to a sign. Almost 100 dollars were tossed out the window! A failure to pay attention to the sign cost more than most of the Christmas gifts I have purchased this year. What a stupid decision on my part.
I ignored the sign, and I am paying for it.
We are in the final stretch of Advent - of this season of waiting and watching, pondering and preparing for the one who has come and the one who will come again. During the last four Sundays, our scripture lessons have been filled with warnings to prepare.
We started with Luke 21, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves...Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap."
On the second Sunday of Advent, our scriptures offered us an encounter with Malachi, "See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me..." while Luke told us about the voice crying out from the wilderness, "'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight...'"
We then encountered John the Baptist on the third Sunday of Advent, hearing him call us "a brood of vipers," before listening to his request to "bear fruits worthy of repentance."
The signs are all around us. God has posted signs all over the place, signs asking us to repent, to prepare, to live a changed life. We have been invited to rejoice, to believe, to ponder in our hearts, to give and to seek renewal. The invitations have been extended time and again. The prophets have warned us. The messages have been posted in places where we have seen them. And yet, as I sit here typing four days before Christmas, I realize that another Advent has come and gone in which I have focused on everything that must be done instead of focusing on the signs. I have so often failed to pay attention to the warnings posted around me. I have been caught up in what is important to me, forgetting sometimes what is important to the Christ child whose birth we will celebrate again on Friday.
In many ways, being pulled over last week was a spiritual experience. I was caught. I had to face the fact that I had ignored the sign. Being given a ticket made me confront the fact that there are many other signs I am ignoring. My warning had arrived.
It is not too late to get ready. We still have a few days left. I intend to begin these days listening to the signs - repenting of my sins, asking God what parts of my life need to be renewed, seeking to bear fruits worthy of repentance - generosity, selfless giving of time and talents, kindness, mercy, and the list goes on and on. I desperately want these days to be focused on what is really important. I want to prepare for his birth once more and for the day on which he will come again.
I have seen the signs. God, help me to obey them.