The man sat down next to me and opened his worn prayer book. Out the window I could see the broad wooden cross, lit by a solitary streetlight as if someone were keeping vigil. It wasn't Sunday, nor was I at Bible study. We were all on the way home from work — on a commuter train, on a Monday at 6 p.m. — and dotted among the passengers on my crowded car were people with heads bent silently, some over their holy books.
How did this commute happen to be when I noticed others spending time with God? How does God dwell among us in such ordinary circumstances? When I saw others praying, I felt invited to follow their example. It was like having "church" right there.
We were all strangers, of course, workers stuck in routine. But God had made our time holy. As the train traveled through the December evening, we waited for Jesus, Light of the World, to come to dispel the darkness. But Jesus already was among us, present in the sign of believers at prayer. Even before, perhaps, when we make room for the stranger — moving a backpack so another passenger can sit or when we welcome the uninvited guest, helping the mother with rambunctious children who needs directions.
Monday, 6 p.m.: Same cup of decaf with the same splash of cream in hand, I board the train for the same vinyl seat. The commute home from work often isn't tranquil. It's always a time-consuming interruption in my day. It's meaningless. Or is it?
Maybe this is what one of my college pastors was talking about years ago when she taught that the interruptions in our lives are often a deep part of how God relates to us — in holy time. Advent begins again.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers