The course of the Advent and its violet road-map
was determined two millennia ago.
We who claim our places among his disciples
walk the Coming-Season’s famous annual path to Bethlehem.
Was he even born there?
Perhaps / probably not:
it doesn’t matter.
We tread our Advent road toward Bethlehem
to meet with shepherds and other disreputable people
to sing the songs of the coming of our friend and mentor.
We travel, recalling those irresistible demands of the ancient bureaucracy
to be counted, numbering ourselves
among those blessed to share in his suffering.
We bypass Jerusalem,
knowing that there are many places where truth is hidden,
that deeper truth awaits its revelation,
and that our ultimate destination will, one day,
include that great and troubled city.
Our journeying eyes search out inns and stables,
knowing that God and Spirit and other mysteries
will be found in the most unlikely places.
The city of David calls to us with the power of its history,
but we come, knowing that the new story being birthed
will be a far deeper drama
of love, generosity and sacrifice.
To Bethlehem we make our Advent
with gratitude, wonder, and trepidation.
Do I want to live forever?
It’s not a priority.
My mind struggles with notions of heaven;
of existing somehow, conscious and individual,
beyond one’s allotted days
in this corporeal world.
Across earth’s stones and tracks I journey,
wonder and rage.
I breathe its red dust and taste its sorrow;
here I belong
and yet am never quite at home.
Perhaps I never shall be.
Striving, longing and hoping
I seek the company
of those who also yearn
and weep and groan.
My comrades are my abode,
my sisters and brothers are my home,
Perhaps this is what the gospel writer meant
when he spoke of abiding in Jesus,
earth-dweller, brother of us all,
and true child of heaven.
(Whatever that means).
Hometowns are for leaving, with occasional returns to visit family and to catch up with friends. On such occasions you will exchange warm greetings, enquire after those absent and share your stories. You will try, but you will find it hard to understand each other’s journeys. How can you? Too much has happened, good and bad; so many unexpected twists in the road. All the surprises, disappointments, challenges, triumphs and embarrassments; you, and they, are no longer the same.
Nor was Jesus. When he returned to his hometown they would not receive him. They could not understand and they would not listen to his words.
Jesus often walked
the western shore of Lake Galilee
in the vicinity of Capernaum;
reflecting, praying, listening.
Perhaps he enjoyed the lapping of the waves,
the cool of the water on dusty feet,
the sounds, the beauty,
and the relative stillness
of the natural world.
He would have observed industry, too;
men with boats and nets,
and women, unnamed and forgotten,
helping to sort the fish
and effect repairs.
When Jesus made his lakeside invitation
to the brothers, Andrew and Simon,
James and John, suggesting
that soon they would be fishing for people;
was he meeting them for the first time?
Mark’s story does not say so;
but it is sometimes read that way.
More likely it was the culmination
of multiple encounters, conversations,
questions, debates, laughter and speculations;
so that when Jesus was ready to go,
so were these friends.
when he called us together
and gave us the talk,
our lives included.
No going back to the easy excitement
of those earlier times, halcyons,
when the message was new,
along with the company.
We move on.
The journey becomes more determined,
the actions more considered;
the serious stuff has begun.
It was never a light thing,
but now we talk openly
of the struggles,
This chosen road passes
from light to darkness,
and back to light again.
It takes us into the shadowed places,
the dim corners of a world
that waits yearningly for a coming;
for those who might bear even a glimmer,
the smallest spark
of defiant hope.
stepping from wave to wave
and the laws of gravity,
at least according to the story.
This, of course, is a sticking point
for many in our sceptical scientific age,
“Come,” says the journeying man.
“Come to me,
come with me.
Together we shall travel
to the shadowed places;
where despair is deep, fears imprison,
and worries and concerns threaten to overwhelm.
We shall whisper hope,
touch with love and life,
and bring to birth the peace
for which our weeping planet yearns.
And should the waves rise to engulf us,
and should the primeval chaos
reassert itself to swallow us up,
then we shall sink together;
and finding fulfilment.”