Making my way to work these days takes me through ancient, weathered countryside. It has been trod by generations before me as far back as I can remember. I know this place inside out – or so I thought.
Then, a change of season and the start of Advent, and some sudden subtle change of light and shadow on the landscape made me realise this was a different journey altogether – passing through a place I barely knew.
It seems to me this just might be what Advent is all about this year.
We have all been there before. We know the terrain of the journey, the hopeful waiting and the preparation for the arrival of the Christ Child – or do we?
If anything is certain, this could well be a more preciously different Advent than any we have ever had before.
In this expectant pause for Presence, relationship between and among us has never been more valued. The certainty of being remembered and loved has never been more vital, as has the longing that possibly never leaves us, to be held in trust and care by the very person that we value most. The palpable sense of being community reminds us of who we are (expressed through life shared with and for Him) now longingly seeks its expression in the midst of humanity, free of the confines of a Covid-19 landscape.
It can become a real gift to journey in a rich un-knowing of all we take for granted, freed up to marvel at the simple revelations of each day’s travel and the gifts laid bare when there is so much less to distract us.
He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and the earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shrouds folding.
He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, too find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the sun-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come,
Will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.
~ Rowan Williams
Note: The poem ‘Advent Calendar’ by Archbishop Rowan Williams was published in his first poetry collection, ‘After Silent Centuries’ (Oxford, 1994).
See also: A social revolution at Christmas