Following on from Steve’s honest description of travelling through unbelief, and Bob’s description of rumbles of war just over the horizon I find myself once again wondering about the enforced jollility some of us often feel as disturbing dissonance as this season unfolds. It has always seemed to me that if there is joy at all, it is as likely to be encountered accompanied by tears as much as laughter. Sometimes both come together. I have tried to write about this apparent contradiction many times in my poetry. Advent, it seems, is a paradox.
Perhaps you will call me miserable (or use the slightly kinder word ‘melancholic’) but this would miss something important. Advent is always hard for many and this one is harder than most. Yesterdays post from Bob about Ukraine offers a very present example, but there are many closer to home who are also struggling.
The individualisation which has defined our age has also condemned many in western societies to solitary confinement just when we needed each other the most.
In the midst of my own Advent ponderings I am reading this book, which Michaela bought for me as present. She knows me well. The author places her Advent in the context of the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people, but also in the context of the first Advent, which describes the arrival of Jesus into chaos… into an Israel overcome and broken by a succession of occupations, only the latest one being the Romans. The book starts like this;
What does joy look like from the perspective of broken troubled times? What is the peace that we hope for? What justice? These are never just individual questions, rather they move us away from self-religon back towards the collective, shared consciousness that rediscovers our connectedness to both each other and to the created world. To the ‘Christ who loved things by becoming them’.
As I read Steve’s words two days ago describing his thinking seat in the face of an ebb of faith, a poem was nagging at me. I offer it here in the hope that it wall say more with fewer words.
Light of the world
The low winter sun takes power from
Puddles of last night’s rain and I turn away
Resonating to signals sent from distant stars
Something glints at the top of bare branches –
A flash of wing or a white tooth or the
Coming together of choirs of angels
And in a wet manger of clogged earth, summer
Sleeps, waiting for light to burst out
For behold, the light is with us. The light is
In us. The light shines in the darkest places –
It even shines in me
Chris Goan, from ‘After the Apocalypse’ available here.