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Sunday morning I drove to the Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife Area to watch thousands of Sandhill Cranes. I had read the best views are either at sunrise and sunset, and the recent count was over 25,000 in the marshland. The decision to drive just under two hours there, though spontaneous, was not difficult. With just over a month left in an indescribable year, I wanted to start this Advent with clear images of hope.

Immediately when I opened the car door, I could hear the distinctive calls from the cranes. I hurried down the path toward the observation tower and noticed the first small groups soaring in the air, almost in a disjointed shape. They would come from all directions, and I would hear them first. When I wasn't taking pictures or a video, I closed my eyes and listened to the calls. For months, I had been trying to tune out the noise of the pandemic and the events of the year long enough to sleep, to pray, to feel peace. In listening to the crane's conversation and nothing else, the world was quiet. I have prayed since then to somehow reclaim this quiet.

After an hour of watching from the tower and asking questions of several masked strangers who had visited before, we heard the trumpeting calls strengthen into a rumble. A giant group of Sandhill Cranes took off from the marsh and flew close together as they gained height. I watched as they flew over a two-lane road and a farmhouse. This was an extraordinary moment to see, but I had been looking upward, anticipating this takeoff. I wondered if those who live near the recreation area pay attention to the cranes. After all, they come every year before migrating south. Would they consider this experience extraordinary? The Advent season comes each year, including 2020. Have I found hope in its coming? Am I using the days to quiet my heart and prepare for Jesus? Do I still view the Savior's birth as miraculous? Am I willing to talk about it with others?

I pray you will encounter and hold tightly to the hopeful moments this season brings.

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