Have you ever stood on the asphalt at a major intersection and looked at the size of the turn arrow painted in the turn-only lane? It’s huge. I suppose that when I’m whipping down the road at 45 mph that it’s a good idea to paint it large enough and elongated enough for me to understand it. Likewise, have you ever driven down the highway and seen a billboard with text too small to make out? Actually, those letters are pretty big, but, when you’re driving by in a flash, they need to be even bigger than you’d expect, and sometimes marketing directors miss that point.
Today is the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle—doubting Thomas—and in the Old Testament lesson for today, we get some drive-by advertising. God says to the prophet Habakkuk, “Write the vision; make it plain on the tablets, so that a runner may read it.” I don’t really think that Israel had been bitten by the running bug—all training for various foot races. And I don’t think that Habakkuk was suggesting that reading while running is any safer than texting while driving. But I do think he has a message that we’re not supposed to miss.
The vision he writes in bold, big letters is this: “There is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” In other words, DON’T GIVE UP! Prophets were often in the business of reminding their people not to abandon hope. Sometimes decades would go by without many indications that God had not completely given up on his people. Wars, famines, earthquakes—after a long string of tough times, it’s easy to think that God isn’t ever going to save us. But Habakkuk was reminded by God that he is indeed coming to rescue his people. But that was a message he needed to write down big enough for rush-hour traffic to read.
It’s nearly the end of Advent, now. St. Thomas’ day always comes 4 days before Christmas. I find it hardest to wait and watch at this point in the Christmas race. I preach the message of patience for the first three weeks of Advent, but, by the time I get to week four, it’s hard to remember to stop and look and listen. There is too much going on. But now is the time when we most need to wait. We are still supposed to be looking for the coming of our savior. But the busyness of the season, now kicked up into overdrive, means that’s a message that’s easy for us to miss.
A few weeks ago, when we were ambling down the spiritual sidewalk and thinking about John the Baptist, the Advent message of waiting patiently for the Lord was easy to read and understand. Now, as the incomplete shopping list has grown to paralyzing length, I need that message to be bigger than Interstate-billboard huge. Yes, God is coming. Yes, I’m supposed to wait for him. No, I shouldn’t give up because things are getting busy and it’s harder than ever to wait. Habakkuk’s message from so long ago is still the message for us now: wait patiently for the Lord—for he is coming soon.