"I will station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what God will say to me. Then the Lord answered: 'Write the vision; make it plain on tablets … For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, it does not lie.'" - Habakkuk 2:1-3
Jobs that require you to do nothing but look are really hard: cops on stakeouts, soldiers on watch, TSA agents scanning carry-ons hour after hour. They're exhausting, and really boring. Because normally, things are normal. What you're watching for rarely materializes. You hardly ever have anything to report. Yet you're frighteningly aware that normal is deceptive. If you zone out for a second, you could miss something, and missing it could spell disaster.
Given all that, Habakkuk is one lucky watcher. He's barely stationed himself when God appears with the vision he's looking for. He hasn't yawned even once and his shift is over. He'd probably geared up for a long night, but God's in a hurry. It seems God doesn't want him—or us—to have to watch longer than necessary. God knows we need to know now that all will be well.
In Advent, Jesus tells us to keep watch, but there can be too much watching. It can break the spirit to spend night after weary night watching, and go home morning after morning with nothing to report. And so here God gives Habakkuk, and us, what all watchers desire: the end of our shift.
And not just the end of one shift, but the trustworthy promise of an end to all shifts, the end of the need for our watching at all, an after-Advent world in which we can stand down. Soon someone else will watch for us, someone tireless will be on guard for us, someone wonderful will be our safety, forever and a day.
Come, Great Watcher, guardian and rest. Come soon, bring morning, bring peace.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.