Truth shall spring up from the earth
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
For all that the rhetoric of Advent is ‘watch and wait,’ the reality of December is often very different. Holiday shopping, dance recitals and nativity plays; parties and too many ‘Christmas’ lunches; Carol services and tree trimming parties; and too often, an expected-unexpected death of who hasn’t the energy to fight through another New Year.
In the midst of all that, prayer is honoured more in the desire than the reality. But God is ever creative, finding new ways to interrupt us and give us God’s presence.
Once this week, the moment God caught was as sudden as the silence of the radio being switched off as I drove over a hill and the light filled the fields with gold.
And then, a moment that took slightly more effort on my part: an hour in Durham cathedral as the light faded through the east window. But surely, that’s cheating: claiming that in an hour spent in a cathedral God still has to catch us off guard. True enough, I had gone to pray. I love Durham cathedral, and it has often been a place where ‘things happen’. But the chapel where I had planned to pray was full of Christmas tree and plans for dismantling my soul to see if God would put it back together again were much in jeopardy. (It’s not quite the sort of thing one can do in the nave.)
I began wandering. I asked the steward where I might pray uninterrupted, but the miltary chapel he suggested was no use, so I slipped in by the high altar. I didn’t go into the pews where the rehearsing choir would see me, but up towards the pulpit on the marble steps where I could see altar and reredos and rose window. The stewards decided to be tolerant. In summer, they’d have asked me not to sit there, but in the hush of a December twilight they could be generous.
And so God seized his chance. It wasn’t the time or place for the unbuilding and rebuilding of souls. Instead, I was given sapphires and diamonds; the evening show of stained glass, and spotlights glinting off silver. The choir began singing Adam lay y-bounden, and I sang with them: Deo Gratias.