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Hallo again to all.

'Distrait' isn't an adjective that one would normally associate with Advent. But it accurately describes our state of mind on this fourth Sunday of Advent.

Instead of composed, we're scattered. Instead of solemnly contemplating the last things, we're trying to tick off items on our to-do list. With four Sundays of Advent to prepare for our Lord's coming, we're at sixes and sevens. And in the background, the 'O' Antiphon Alarm Clock™ keeps ticking. We want to hit the snooze button!

But there is the little door and, like Alice, we seem too big to go through it, to reach that manger once again. Yet no matter how scattered our Advent preparation, all is well. We're swept up in the hymns that implore Christ's coming Now! Soon! And adverbs stress that even more: 'O come quickly! Come, Lord, come!' So once again, we convince ourselves that there is no perfect Advent, as there is no perfect Lent (at least for us poor Anglicans Online mortals) and that showing up, singing, making our rag-tag personal prayers, participating with as much focus as we can in the liturgy, remembering the astounding unlikeliness of all we're anticipating — all this à la carte menu makes up Advent.

And we take comfort that we're in good company. After all, how prepared were the shepherds that blessed night? Or the Magi? Or Mary and Joseph, for heaven's sake? We have the blessing of 'knowing' the point of Advent — the double-edged point — of the coming of a baby and, at the end of time, the coming again of our Lord. But the 'point of intersection of the timeless' wasn't predictable and isn't logical. When Mary questioned* the Archangel Gabriel 'How shall these things be?' we doubt the angel's response was clearly understood by our blessed lady. Acceptance is occasionally a greater virtue than understanding, as hard as that may to accept.

So we are left with Advent riddles, and we can rightly be as puzzled as Alice in Wonderland when she crouched down to that tiny door and looked bewideringly into the garden she so wanted to enter. Advent gives us some of the pieces: death, judgement, heaven, hell. But it promises a sacred infant, too. And it asks us to be ready, as ready as we can, for both.

These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.
Here the impossible union

For us, one of best hints for 'getting into the garden' came from Robert Graves, known for his bitterly nostalgic Good-Bye to All That and some quite good poetry. To the dismay of some, he dabbled in mythology, anthropology, and history and in one of those dodgy efforts, he wrote a few sentences of such brilliance that we forgive him some of his scholarly oddities.

It is not too much to say that all original discoveries and inventions and musical and poetical compositions are the result of proleptic thought — the anticipation, by means of a suspension of time, of a result that could not have been arrived at by inductive reasoning — and of what may be called analeptic thought, the recovery of lost events by the same suspension.

This need mean no more than that time, though a most useful convention of thought, has no greater intrinsic value than, say, money. To think in temporal terms is a very complicated and unnatural way of thinking.

Advent requires suspending temporal terms of thought. We could not arrive at the incarnation of Jesus Christ by any sort of inductive reasoning. We can only accept and worship; take up the invitation to eat and drink at the Holy Altar and thus enter that garden and find ourselves once again at the stable. And in the grit and grimness of this old tired world, expect miracles now and then.

Today at a petrol station a complete stranger introduced himself to us as 'Mr Harry' and after a few minutes of polite and halting conversation (he spoke in heavily accented English) whilst petrol was being pumped, 'Mr Harry' suddenly proclaimed that had an 'ornament' for us. He disappeared into a ramshackle shop, emerged with a perfect long-stemmed pink rose, and handed it to us through the car window. An Advent rose. Who could have imagined? So imagine, dear friends, and stop thinking for a bit during the last bit of Advent. We'll try to do the same.

And leaping ahead to next Saturday, we wish you a blessed and joyful Christmas. Love, light, grace, and peace to each of you as you celebrate the nativity of our Saviour. Rejoice!

See you next week.

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Last updated: 19 December 2010

*Giving us, be it noted, a blessed mandate for asking questions of God

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