When I was a wee lad, Grandma and Grandpa Hagerty lived in White Lake and Grandma Griffin lived in Mitchell, so several times a year, the Griffin clan in Aberdeen would drive down Highway 281 to visit. Reaching the interstate at Plankinton, we would either turn left or right depending on which family was being visited first.
The trip down was always pretty easy and enjoyable because we had a visit with the grandparents to look forward to, and since we were usually picked up at school for the trip, we had the energy and excitement that only comes from having sat for many hours in a classroom. The time seemed to fly by.
Yet, after the visit was over, the trip back home would begin and that was another story. Packed into the back end of a wood paneled station wagon, tired, we would begin the long trip back and the excruciating pace of 55 miles per hour.
My brother and I would try to make the interstate part of the trip a bit more interesting by pretending that there were shooters on the interstate bridges, so we would duck and hide whenever we passed under one; that filled a few miles of the trip. The rest was just brutal for kids and parents alike. I envy kids today who have whole entertainment systems in the backseat; we just had siblings trying not to touch each other.
Dad tried to lighten things up a bit by always honking the car horn as we drove through Bonilla. I still have no idea why Bonilla, but it gave us something to look forward to and that was good enough for us. In fact, it is still a tradition for me to greet Bonilla with a good horn honk even today. I hope they don’t mind.
Then, after an eternity of sitting, we would reach Redfield and the last 42 miles. Redfield was tricky, it was close, the last city before home. It was only 42 miles, which did not seem like a lot of miles, but it was still an hour away. Redfield played with your mind; Redfield said home was close, but it really was not.
As we drove past Redfield, heading north along the flat prairie, from the back seat you could see the lights of Aberdeen in the distance. The lights that said you were close to home, and yet never seemed to get any closer. Those final 42 miles were the longest of the entire drive, so close and yet so very, very far away.
Home did arrive, of course, after an hour that seemed like 10, the lights would grow brighter and soon we would be staggering our way through the back door. It took time, it took effort, and it took continuing the drive. If we had just stopped in the sweet temptation of Redfield and simply waited for home to come to us, we’d still be sitting there.
Drive we must and so drive we did; all the way home.
I like to think of Redfield as being an expression of our hopes and dreams for the Advent Season. Advent is about the promise of home and the possibility of its nearness. Advent reminds us that we are not in the fullness of the Kingdom yet, but we can see the lights in the distance.
So the Church bids us to watch, to pray, wait, and to cry out with joyful hope, “Adveniat regnum tuum: Thy Kingdom come!” This watching, praying, crying out is never meant to be a passive endeavor, it is meant to keep us focused on the truth: The promised coming of the Kingdom is a motivation to keep moving.
It would be easy to just sit back in the sure hope of the Lord’s return and the coming of the Kingdom, just waiting. But home never arrives that way; home arrives unexpectedly and joyfully, but always as a part of the journey. While we wait, and pray and cry out, we continue to move. We go into the waiting world and we bring the light that is ours, we love, we forgive, we bring mercy, we show the way.
The world needs it, the Lord expects it, the journey demands it. We are the keepers of the vision, we are the fulfillment of the promise, we are the ones who bear the message. We are the ones who see the lights of the Kingdom in the distance, and no matter long how it takes, we keep moving forward.
The Lord will come. When He does, we will know with joy that we kept driving, but it is He who brought us home.