November 27, 2021
Welcome to Advent! Advent marks the start of a new Church year. We speak of Advent as a season of waiting; as we await the birth of the baby Jesus into our hearts anew. We have our Advent rituals—lighting the candles each week on our Advent wreath; opening the doors of an Advent calendar; reading and praying through and Advent devotional; singing the verses of “O come, o come Emmanuel;” attending a Blue Advent service to release our grief and pain before God; planning and preparing for Christmas celebrations with family and friends. These rituals are grounding and hope-filled, and so important in a season when the sun sets in the middle of the New England afternoon and nights are dark and long.
In my preparations for Advent, I stumbled across this poem from one of my favorite poets, R. S. Thomas. Thomas (1923-2000) was an Anglican priest who served churches in small rural villages in Wales. I invite you to read it through at least twice, slowly, perhaps aloud, and to notice where you are caught up in his spare, but evocative words…..
The Bright Field
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
Thomas suggests that Advent questions may be more than “How am I waiting?” and “What am I doing to mark the days of Advent?”
The invitation from the poet and Luke’s Gospel for Sunday is “Where am I looking?” and “What do I notice?”
Moses, minding his father-in-law’s flock, and his own business! notices a bush consumed in flames. He turns, no doubt in fear, to see what this miraculous sign could be, and hears the Word of God speaking to him.
Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel, tells us that there are signs all around that God’s hand is at work. The signs are fear-inducing…distress in the world, violent seas, and more apocalyptic imagery as we wait for the Son of Man to come a second time. How do we turn aside from our comfortable busyness to face the fears we all have…fear of death, fear of loss, fear of fear!? We live in strange times, and one need not have much imagination to catch glimpses of these distresses and storms of which Jesus tells….but this text is not to induce fear but to bring Good News. Good News that no matter what, God’s hand is at work and we are yet closer to the day when the Son of Man returns in glory to reconcile all to the Creator. Good News that when we face the truth of death and fear by looking it head on, we see the Light of Christ and the promise of new life in Him.
For the poet, R.S. Thomas, and the unknown artist of the woodcarving pictured above, there is this Light all around. We forget to notice, we turn away from its brightness, we sentimentalize about the past, thinking that the Light was brighter then, or will be brighter sometime in the future. But the promise of Advent is that the Light has come into the world and the darkness cannot overcome it. The Light of Christ is here, now, and that promise is for you here, now, and in the age to come. For this season, perhaps you will ask “Where am I looking? Where do I see the Light of Christ in this world?”
May you have a blessed Advent, as you look for signs of the Light!