The Long and Winding Roads.
All roads lead to somewhere, or do they? Even if they lead to nowhere or a dead end then that is somewhere in itself. Roads, journeys, destinations known and unknown. The account of the Christmas story is full of them. Journeys of men, women and angels. Journeys of pregnant expectations, foreign star-gazers and angelic messengers. I have fallen in love with this season all over again. I love the story, I love the hope, I love the message of gift. I love the addition of fables and fairy story, of child-like awe and wonder at trees and lights and accounts of Saint Nick. I love the build up, the event and the gap between Boxing Day and New Year. This is my account of my Advent journey. A journey full of journeys. My long and winding road that encounters the long and winding road of Immanuel and birth and comings of promise. Over the four Sundays preceding Christmas I have followed one of many themes for the Advent journey. I have discovered there are many, none of them proclaiming to be the perfect one, but this was my journey, my thinking, my long and winding road to Bethlehem for 2015. Just glimpse the journey with me…
The first Sunday of Advent, the coming, the Parousia, has the theme of anticipation. The longing for the Messiah who is to come. There is a theme of hope and expectation. A pondering on the words of the prophets who foretell the events surrounding the birth; ‘for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders’, ‘for out of you Bethlehem shall come forth a child’. A time for the Simeon and Anna’s of this world to come into the story. Those that have waited, longed, never given up. These two, often left out of the story, have key roles to play in holding a babe, a wordless, miracle-less, puny looking baby and accepting that this is what they were waiting for. Now I can die, this is that. Receiving the promise when it looks far from an answer. This pooping, crying, mother dependant infant is the Messiah we are waiting for. Pregnant expectation fulfilled. I remember the days when I was waiting for my boys to be born, that longing, that fear, the hope, the wonder, the worry. Not knowing when but knowing it will happen. False starts and dashed pain, but then the day arrives. The anticipation is fulfilled. O Come O Come Emmanuel.
Things That Are Not Become The Things That Are.
The second Sunday in Advent has the theme of Bethlehem. Though you are little out of you shall come forth… Bethlehem, the house of Bread, would birth the Bread of Life. Seemingly insignificant, small, and yet full of destiny and widescreen visions of God. Out of here came the house and line of David, another small, insignificant character. So insignificant his father forgot him when Samuel asked to see all Jesse’s sons. He’s only a boy, a shepherd, the runt of the litter. God says perfection. The God who takes the broken pots of the potter’s field and says this is my utensil, fit for my purpose. The God who confounds the wise by choosing the marginalised and the unprofessional. The signs of Bethlehem still are evident everywhere. O Little Town of Bethlehem, out of you. You reading this, out of you. That’s right YOU. Things that are not become the things that are.
The third Sunday in Advent is Guadete Sunday. The sounds of rejoicing. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord O you righteous, for praise from the upright is beautiful. But there is pain, loss, hopelessness. I have been more aware than ever this year of the sense of loneliness and loss people suffer during the festive period. Whether it has been the pictures of the devastating floods or the John Lewis advert, or the gentleman who lost his father aged 100 who turned up during Advent. There is not always the evidence of peace, joy, hope. It is at times like this our harps can be hung on the Poplar tree branches and we say how can we sing the Lord’s song in this strange land? But it is at times like this the Divine can stir from our depth as deep cries out to deep. Release of the song, the sound of joyful children, the laughter of a Santa, the conversations on a drunken work’s do dance floor. For a fleeting moment joy can heal in ways that even prayer cannot, but then the rejoicing is a healing prayer. On this Sunday I rejoiced with my family in the home, my family in Passion and then my family at work. Went from the couch to the church gathered to the dance floor. Joy flowed. He is here.
I Believe in Angels.
The fourth Sunday in Advent has the theme of Angels. Stories of the mysterious beings who carry eternal messages that change the course of history. Their unnerving presence as they appear to the unsuspecting, normal people. These are not your supernatural conference junkies, these are people living in a time when God’s voice is rare, sparse, distanced. Into this world beings form another world appear with strange requests and directions. These simple folk believe. They believe the hilarious, zany, whacky ideas. The angels proclamations are unparalleled. Virgins having God’s child, directions for journeys never taken before, warnings, hopes, laughable stuff that would make the tellers seem insane. But the angels come, in dreams, in the day, uninvited into rooms, holy messengers with a message of the birth of something new. Angels who praise unendingly and sing with gusto to an audience more bemused than appreciative. An audience of shepherds hidden outside the busy theatres and holy temples.
He is Here.
The coming One is here. We wait in anticipation for the One who has arrived. Advent points to His coming, the journey becomes the destination. We seek Him here, there and everywhere but the Holy Pimpernel is amongst us if we would only look and see. He is here. Here I am wishing you a peaceful and joyful end to the festivities and a great hope for the year that lays ahead. Advent. Parousia. He is here.