Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Advent - already "a cold coming"

The snow is over a foot deep now - little chance of my removing the car from my drive onto my steep bank for some time. So I'm re-discovering the virtue of walking - and meeting quite a few other hardy souls as I do so. The weekly "shop" is going to have to be undertaken by bus (the joy of not having to find a place to park at the MetroCentre!) - though buses are not surprisingly a little intermittent, and schedules are ending at 7p.m. Nevertheless "Go North-East" bus company seems currently to be amongst the current heroes of the region - and quite likely has the most widely used Facebook page.

All this prompted me in thinking of what to write in the "View from the Vicarage" for our December - January Parish Magazine. It's all finished now - and I've had an offer from a 4x4 driver to get the copy to the printer and to collect the finished product. Unfortunately the printer isn't there to do the work - and I'm not surprised... However, you can read the whole magazine in full colour by clicking here and using the tools to re-size and navigate (easy but be patient). And this is what's on my page:

A Cold Coming…

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow…

The opening lines of T. S. Eliot’s poem “Journey of the Magi” come to mind as I write these words on 1st December - with heavy snow falling upon the foot or so we’ve already got. At least in Eliot’s imagination the snow was melting for the Magi. There seems little immediate prospect of that for us.

Why did the wise men from the east make that journey to Bethlehem? What had motivated them? Why did we do it? - they ask in the poem. And what did it mean?

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death?...

The story of Christ’s birth at Bethlehem is both the simplest of stories and also the most demanding. We bring ourselves to worship the Child who is born in the stable and laid in a manger because there was no room at the inn. Shepherds from the fields rush to worship before him. Mysterious visitors from the East come bearing rich and strange gifts. And then they go back to their former lives - to find something has changed.

Each year we need to make that spiritual journey to Bethlehem - to recover a sense of child-like awe as we see how heaven touches earth, how God’s Son is born in the vulnerable frailty of human flesh. But then we need to ask, how has this changed me?

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation…

In the coldness of a wintry world, may we experience again the warmth of God’s love. And may we know that it makes all the difference.

Wishing you all joy and peace at this time - and throughout the New Year.

Martin Jackson

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