Dear Mansfield Watchmen/women,

Watchman, Tell Us of the Night is an old Advent hymn by Sir John Bowring, author of In the Cross of Christ I Glory.  Inspired by some obscure words in Isaiah 21:11, it relates an imaginary dialogue between a watchman looking for signs of daylight and a traveler asking him how much longer it will be till dawn.  First the morning star appears over a mountain rim; then it ascends and penetrates more and more of the darkness; finally, what the star foretokens comes to pass: daybreak and the full brilliance of morning light.  The hymn is picturing Christ as that Light arising and flooding the earth with His brightness.

During these days of Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas), we are like watchmen/women, awaiting the full blaze of “glory shining ‘round” at Jesus’ birth.  Or, to change the image, we are like people in a theater waiting for the curtain to rise.  The minutes before showtime can feel like hours as we anxiously anticipate the sets, the cast, the dialogue, the actions of the characters.  The orchestra strikes up the overture, the lights are dimmed, a hush comes over the audience, and the curtain slowly rises.

Only this theater is as wide as the world, or even as vast as the universe.  Sure, we know the play, and have some acquaintance with the actors.  But this is greater than any human drama, for it is the fulfillment of God’s ancient promises to humanity.  It has been centuries in the making, with a cast of thousands and a cost beyond price, and even beyond imagining.  And the Divine Playwright Himself is Producer, Director, and Star.

The overture is over, the lights go down, a hush settles.  Let’s get ready once again to watch,
          to wonder,
                    and to worship…

Yours in Holy Infanticipation,

(Rev.) Peter A. Brown