After a long, half-term traffic, rain-soaked drive to Cornwall, we arrived at our destination after midnight. The skies cleared and we were blessed with a dark sky filled with a myriad of stars. For a Londoner, used to light pollution, this was truly a ‘wow’ moment. I thought about Abraham all those thousands of years ago, looking up at the night sky. We’d had a family discussion in the car about how many people there were in the world (it should reach eight billion by Christmas 2022) and was reminded of God’s promise that Abraham’s descendants would be more numerous than the stars (Genesis 22:17). That’s an enormous promise!
I quickly drifted off to sleep, exhausted from the drive. However, a couple of hours into my slumber, I was woken by an unfamiliar sound… the hoot of an owl. My usual nightly disturbances include sirens or helicopters circling over the London skies, so this was intriguing. The hoots were so close, I leapt out of bed to see if I could spot this magnificent bird, but it was invisible in the darkness. Very soon, the gentle t-wit-t-woo was answered by a haunting shriek, coming from a neighbouring tree. Now I love nature, but at that point in the night, my mind was imagining some scary scene out of Harry Potter involving dementors, and I was glad to be in a cottage and not a tent. I retreated to my cosy bed, but the hoots and shrieks were so close, I quickly returned to the window to see if I could catch a glimpse of these elusive unfamiliar creatures.
After three such occasions, I eventually gave up and resigned myself to listening to their hour-long chatter. I remember how the boy Samuel heard an unfamiliar voice as he lay sleeping in the temple. Three times he ran to his mentor, the priest Eli, who eventually realised it was God calling. Eli instructs Samuel to respond, ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9). As I listened to the birds’ raucous conversation that night, I felt a nudge to listen out for the voice of God and have a sabbath rest, and not simply fill my holiday with sleep, food and entertainment.
Taking a sabbath, to rest and listen to God is so countercultural in our 24/7 world of unsettling uncertainties. With a revolving door of UK political leaders, tuning into God’s voice is paramount, as we navigate our way through a cost-of-living crisis, a war on the doorstep of Europe and seek to serve those in our Messy Churches in the run-up to Christmas.
Whilst I awoke the following morning a bit weary of the things that ‘go bump in the night’, I had a renewed commitment to walk and talk with God whilst out on the Cornish beaches, and to ‘dwell in the word’ (read my Bible), as well as dwell in my novel.
In this season of Advent, what does ‘sabbath’ look like for you? I encourage you to take a moment to pause and listen to God each day during this busy season.
You could try out the BRF Messy Church ‘Make a difference’ Advent Calendar on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter – starting on 1 December.
BRF Messy Church ministry lead