One of the things I love about Advent is the paradox of it – the “journey in time and out of time… a one-time only journey, yet lived each year”, as Carys Walsh puts it in today’s reading. For me, that sense of both/and, now-and-not-yet, captures the yearning that is at the heart of Advent waiting. We are yearning, longing, waiting for a world – a Kingdom – a kin-dom – which is already promised but not yet here. And yet…. and yet at the same time we can catch glimpses of it, if our waiting is attentive, our eyes open, our lamps lit.
That tension is captured by R.S. Thomas in the image of God looking at the world which is both “held in his hand” and yet “far off”. That paradoxical closeness-and-distance is something I experience in my own perception of God, who is both closer to me than my own breath, and at the same time utterly unknowable, unimaginable, except through all our inadequate images, and fleeting glimpses of glory.
I was pleased to see Walsh picking up on the language of apocalypse – in its true sense of revelation or uncovering. And again, there is paradox here. Even as we wait for the great revelation of the apocalypse, there are moments of uncovering, moments of stripping away the facade of the world to see the background of God’s eternal presence within, which happen all the time. I wonder where, in this year which has felt at times apocalyptic in the colloquial sense, we have noticed those little moments of apocalypse, of revelation, of uncovering the presence of God already in our midst, even as we wait?
Thomas, in this extraordinary image of the river as “a bright serpent… radiant with slime” reveals something which I suspect many of us know to be true: that slime and radiance are not strangers to each other. Or, put another way, God’s presence and purpose in the world are not at all at odds with the mucky, messy, chaotic realities of our present life. Indeed, it may be in the very slime, the distasteful parts of life we would prefer to ignore or avoid, that our waiting eyes catch a glimmer of the radiant glory of God which is both coming, and already here.
This year for #AdventBookClub we are reading “Frequencies of God: walking through Advent with R.S. Thomas” by Carys Walsh. Join the conversation on Twitter using #AdventBookClub or on Facebook by searching for the group ‘Advent Book Club’.