In worship today we sang the Advent hymn Watcher, Tell Us of the Night (NCH 103).
It is a dialogue between “watcher” and “traveler,” with the traveler asking the watcher what is out in the night. The watcher tells the traveler that dawn is nigh and Emmanuel (“God with us”) is close.
I was struck by a line in the final verse:
Watcher, you may go your way; hasten to your quiet home.
Being a watchman (or woman) is indeed tiring work. Even thought watchers often stay in the same place, they are doing the exhausting work of keeping their eyes and ears open. I bet a watcher does appreciate being dismissed from duty and allowed to return home!
My one real experience with it is when I was twelve.
I participated in an Outward Bound program for girls. At night, we set up camp and doubled up on shifts keeping watch through the night. It was hard for me, at that age, so stay awake at such odd hours. But the responsibility of it piqued my nerves and kept me awake, watching. I remember my fellow watcher and I huddled together, waiting, sleepy, excited, whispering to each other.
Are you a watcher or a traveler this Advent season?