Among fly-fisherman, that rare breed that fish for steelhead are thought to be a little mad. And if asked why they travel to the river in the coldest months of the year in search of the most elusive and tight lipped fish, a true steelhead fisherman would just grin and say, “exactly”. They are known as “the fish of a thousand casts”, and though this reputation steers most fly-fisherman toward chasing after more responsive fare, this is “exactly” what keeps steelhead fisherman coming back to the river.
Steelhead fishing is a kind of advent, a waiting, a longing for an arrival. A steelhead fisherman knows he will most likely return home with an empty creel. Yet, if one has been so fortunate to feel the weight of a sea-run rainbow take a fly a hundred yards downstream then he will know that it is he who has in fact been hooked, and he will find himself in that community of the mad who journey to the river hoping and waiting to be hooked again.
It is in a similar rhythm that we journey into this season of the Advent of our Lord, Emmanuel. Waiting and making preparations for the arrival of a God who often feels so elusive and tight-lipped must seem like madness to those who have given themselves to more congenial and predictable idols. Yet, we who have experienced “God with us” know that we have been hooked by Him, and we find ourselves in that community of the mad who enter this season year after year acting out our hope that “the God of a thousand prayers” will be Emmanuel again.