Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening
into the house and gate of heaven
to enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;
no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity;
in the habitations of thy glory and dominion, world without end. Amen.
So wrote the poet John Donne (1572-1631) in a vision for the ultimate reconciliation between God and God’s creation, especially his beloved and often wayward people. The poem speaks of a unity that we seek and long for, but may only catch a glimpse of in the here and now. So as we look forward to Christmas, when the birth of Jesus ‘draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth’, the season of Advent invites us to experience the reality of contrast and distance. Advent is a season of contrast: between light and darkness, hope and fear, now and not yet. It is the long night that takes us up to the moment just before dawn when everything is as dark and cold as it can be.
And yet, all through Advent we are invited to look for the ways in which God’s reconciliation is chipping away at the world’s hard-heartedness, the ways that the light of God is shining through the cracks in the world’s darkness. Some years it’s really easy to spot the darkness and hard-heartedness, and really hard to spot the light and the reconciliation. This is undoubtedly one of those years. But we must continue to look for the moments of redemption, and to contribute towards the making of more moments, that others may recognise them. For it is these moments, when we perceive them, that remind us that, against the odds, the trajectory of the relationship between earth and heaven is – ultimately – one of reconciliation.
May this season be for us and for the world a time for the power of God’s ultimate reconciliation to break into the conflict and darkness of our time.