CT Friday, 21 December 2018
Advent is almost complete. December days of preparation are drawing to an end. On this day, the shortest day in the Winter Season in the Northern hemisphere, the commercial atmosphere of purchase and preparation is at a height. Each year in our parish, named for John the Baptist, the prophet of Advent, we have included a Proclamation of the feast of Nativity, read by candlelight in a darkened church. It is read during the liturgy on the eve of Christmas
It tells the story of the Jesus Child, the story of a birth in the small Palestinian town of Bethlehem at a time of Occupation.
It begins with these words.
“Time and event slip from our grasp.
Taken from the eternity that is God, came the Son.
To a people prepared came the unrecognised child.
In his time he came into our time and disturbed the peace“.
It was hard to recognise a Child born in such circumstances, even more so to appreciate the peace that his arrival would disturb. His mother, a young Jewish woman, had carried him during the tiring months of her pregnancy. She would stand, years later, at the foot of the Cross beyond the walls of Jerusalem. But then his Advent was promised over many years, from the eternity of God.
“For each of us, half people wandering in a lost world, peace comes with wholeness. Appreciating our broken-being, we seek completion”.
There is recognition of a need, a thirst for our sustenance. The image of a wandering people is unfortunately one that we are familiar with in our present days. The movements of peoples from Africa and the Middle East into Europe, the travels of those in Central America seeking help have brought tragic stories to our attention. All share one common theme, that of waiting.
“From the East has come to us a story of a wandering people, waiting for the Lord, the story of a turbulent people moving with purpose yet often confused, often distraught sometimes lonely, to the point of pain”.
However arduous the journey, they do not hesitate to take to difficult roads or cross dangerous seas. They do so with purpose, sometimes at the cost of their lives.
“But always drawn ever closer toward that one point of incarnation. Each of us, a pilgrim people the sparks that the Spirit Wind blew to life. Each of us, warming to a greater fire, seek the Child that is its source, the cause of our very existence”.
Those on a journey need encouragement, some thread of conviction that gives warmth during difficult days. That support can come in many ways, at unexpected times and with surprising results.
“In the silence that is night, in the darkness when the Sun is momentarily lost, huddled for warmth we reach Other“.
So each year when the Nativity feast is marked, we do so in the context of what once happened and what happens now in our own days. We should realise the crucial role that each of us, however insignificant we might be, has to play; all of us are pilgrims on a journey.
“Here tonight within these walls, proof against that awesome night here again is cause for hope, here again a birth brings light. Pass on, pass on the fire that is given you, the fire that is within you, the fire that is you until, burnt to ash, you are at the very centre. There in the stable before the Child of Mary, is the promise of the Father, the gift of the Spirit. Pass on and stand before the telling of the story of the Jesus Child. And in the disturbing of your peace, accept the peace he brings from the eternity of God”.
We are living in times where peace is being constantly being disturbed, where the consequences of our own folly are uncertain.
Thomas Merton’s words echo the risk and uncertainty of our pilgrimage.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself: and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire”.
May the peace of the Christ be with each one of us as we celebrate, once again, his birth in a stable. May we tell again the story of the Jesus Child that others might hear his Good News.