Given two roads diverging in a yellow wood, I am almost certain to take the one more traveled by. With apologies to Robert Frost, there are children and grandchildren waiting at the end of this road. Pennsylvania Turnpike (ten minute stop at the Sideling Hill Service Plaza) to the Ohio Turnpike (lunch at the Great Lakes Service Plaza south of Cleveland – Panera Bakery, with an optional stop at the Blue Heron Plaza near Toledo) then to Exit 121 off the Indiana Toll Road and five miles north into Michigan. Ten hours door to door if all goes well. We really don’t want to waste time on the road less traveled by.
But coming home from Williamsburg, Virginia, last Saturday, Becky and I decided to take the road less traveled by. Of course, the road more traveled by is I-95, so the decision wasn’t that hard to make. From Williamsburg we headed south to Norfolk and then across and through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and up the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland through Delaware and home. Just before the Maryland line, though, we took a road even less traveled by. We turned east on Stateline Road and followed it until two lanes gave way to one and then there was no more road, just a gravel parking lot at the little harbor on the south end of Chincoteague Bay in Greenbackville, Virginia.
In making our plans to travel the road less traveled by, we talked about finding some sleepy little fishing village with a rundown restaurant on the waterfront serving great seafood, crab in particular. The Crusty Crab Seafood Shack was it exactly what we had in mind. The crab chowder could not have been better and the crab in the crab cake sandwiches was chunky and succulent.
Last Saturday we took the road less traveled by, and that made all the difference. But next time there are children and grandchildren to see, it will be the road more traveled by — Pennsylvania to Ohio Turnpike, then 30 miles or so down the Indiana Toll Road and five miles north into Michigan.
The season of Advent is sort of like a trip to Greenbackville, Virginia, in a world of Interstates and Turnpikes. Most of the year, and especially December, there’s much to do. Jobs to be done and careers to advance, activities to plan and parties to attend, bills to pay and meals to prepare; lights to string and cards to send. If time is like an ever-flowing stream, it often resembles eight lanes of rush hour traffic on the interstate. But, frankly, if you want to get to Michigan in time for supper, you’d better stick to the interstate.
Advent always begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is to say sometimes in late November, sometimes in early December. The off-ramp to Advent is never quite the same year to year, nor is the winding road to the sleepy little village of Bethlehem ever the same. Daily readings change, devotional booklets come and go, and the issues of the day that cloud the skies of Advent are sometimes dark and ominous, sometimes hardly noticeable against the bright winter sky. But the road always goes from two lanes to one and then finally runs out just before it gets to a cattle stall on the outskirts of the village.
If our goal is to get to Christmas Day as quickly and as efficiently as possible, I’d suggest the Turnpike – a ten minute stop at Sideling Hill and then lunch at the Great Lakes Plaza south of Cleveland. However, if your goal is to follow an always unfamiliar road to its end at a sleepy village south of Jerusalem, then it must be a road less traveled by.
This year the off-ramp to Advent came early; a November start before we’d yet recovered from the horrors of Black Friday – oh, I should tell you, there are no malls in Greenbackville or in Bethlehem. If you missed the exit to Advent, don’t worry. Take the next turn and then follow the star. Join us in worship this Sunday as we light the second candle on the Advent wreath and sing the second verse of “O Come, O come, Emmanuel.” Download your devotional right now and turn to page 9; you can read the earlier entries later. And take your foot of the accelerator. It’s slow going on this Advent road less traveled by.