Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers. – Romans 13:11 (NRSV)
The alarm rang. 3am. Karen and I bundled into the clothes we’d set out the night before. No time to waste.
We made our way across town, met up with the group, and headed into the mountains. As the vans got close to our destination, they slowed to a crawl, their lights as low as safely possible. Then twenty of us slipped out into the night, the crunch of snow under our boots the only sound.
We took our places in the park service trailer. No heat. Absolute darkness. No reason to raise the binoculars around our necks.
Half an hour later, people started leaning into their friends, asking, “Is that one?”
“No, I think it’s just a sage bush.”
But in another 15 minutes we could see tiny black bundles, tracing their way across the slightly-less-black ground.
Finally, as the sun lit the plain, we were treated to one of the most incredible spectacles in the natural world: the mating ritual of the Greater Sage Grouse. Dozens of birds strutting through the snow, their tails each a fan of brown spikes, their fluffy white chests puffed out, two yellow air sacs poking through.
We followed the intricate steps of their dance. Listened to their booming, burbling calls. And stared at one another in joyous wonder. To be witnesses to this stunning performance at the end of our long, cold vigil.
Keep watch. Be ready. Trust that when the sun rises, there will be something to see.
O Love, is that you?
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.