This year I'm giving
away the things I love.
The laughing wooden man must go.
He's stood too long
with his Alpine staff
poised to walk.
Perhaps he's daunted by the clutter
of animals, the brightness of stars,
shepherds driven into the old night.
All this has to be
translated by time
into late evenings for tired clerks.
in a thousand forms
provokes us and time
and give way.
A crow sways atop
a blue spruce,
his ugly caw
insisting an odd angelism.
I board a red bus
buzzing with warm summer voices
talking of mortality,
editing some life
I never knew.
A few words left behind
search beneath the trees
for a lost language,
the other glove
that once belonged to time.
Behind the lighted windows
gifts smothered in silver wrapping
are peeled back to disappointment;
tears fall in the dark
with the silence of May blossoms,
bird songs and bright grass
My best gifts have been
blackbirds at the tops of trees,
your small fingers stretching for
cello strings in a sunlit room,
a brown halo of hair
stuck to the pillow
like a dried chrysanthemum.
Like the clock in the square,
we ignore a coming
that will lay questions at our feet
and cradle packages at the bus stop.
The threaded thousand strands of
in your hands
and in my hair
twist in the light,
reflect the single bright strand
on the coat of the girl heading home
from People's Drug,
weary of checking out.
This time will fade
like the crow giving up
the topmost hold
and singing himself to extinction,
like the closeted notes
of an unused cello,
or hair tamed by a stiff brush,
meanwhile, we watch the horizon,
seeking second hands.
Beyond the circle of light,
the laughing man beckons me.
Miss the bus.
Leave the gifts.
The Christian Century, 103.39, 17 Dec. 1986, p 1140.
Advent God, we journey with you, to Bethlehem's stable and a new-born King, ears attuned to the song of angels, eyes alert for Bethlehem's star.
Forgive us if on our journey we are distracted by the tempting offers of this world.
Keep our hearts aflame with the hope of Christmas, and the promise of a Saviour. Amen.
The Alexis Master. Nativity St Albans Psalter, 1130. Dombibliothek Hildesheim.
Psalm 25.1, 2a, 3 Ad te [Domine] levavi animam meam, Deus meus, in te confido:
non erubescam neque irrideant me inimici mei. Etenim universi qui te expectant non confundentur. Vias tuas, Domine, demonstra mihi: et semitas tuas edoce me.
Unto thee, O Lord, will I lift up my soul; my God, I have put my trust in thee: O let me not be confounded, neither let mine enemies triumph over me. For all they that hope in thee shall not be ashamed. Shew me thy ways, O Lord: and teach me thy paths.
For Christians, Advent is a time when they do a bit of self-examination. Have I allowed Jesus in yet? Has the good news really made the full impact it might make, or is my life still locked into old patterns, into darkness, into slavery, into being not at home with myself or God or with other people? It's a time of self-examination, of repentance indeed, facing myself honestly and saying sorry for the things that don't easily face the light. And it's a time of expectation and a time of hope. A time, therefore, also of quiet.…
We don't have quite the sort of quiet we need to think, 'Well what would it be if Jesus really came as if for the first time into my life? What would it be for the good news really to change me?' Because for that to happen I need some reflective time; I need some peace; I need to slow down; I need, you might say, to take my time about things.…
Slow down, take time, let yourself grow and open up, rather like a flower coming to blossom. It is a time of expectation, a time of excitement, a time of waiting, a time of peace, a time when we're clearing our hearts and our minds a bit so we really can see clearly when Jesus arrives, and feel fully the impact of his coming.
—Rowan Williams, 'A Reflection on Advent' in Darkness Yielding: Liturgies, Prayers and Reflections for Advent, Christmas, Holy Week and Easter (London: Canterbury Press/Cairns Publications, 2009), 6–9.