Friday 20 December 2013

A weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious dawn

'A weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious dawn'. 

Those were the lines that filled my mind as I drove out the school gate today. I love my work, really I do; and, I love all the students I teach. Especially today, as I watched tiny Year 7 students crane their necks to see their teachers behaving like fairytale simpletons on the stage of the school pantomime. We laughed today, we laughed as a community, together. It was joyful. But, we were also weary. My, we were weary. Everywhere I looked I saw sleepy, tired faces. People doing their best to just get to end. There were frayed tempers, emotional moments, and a few tears shed. All part of the end of term at Christmas. 

When the last bell sounded, and I was free to jump into my car and drive through the gate for the last time in 2013, it was relief mixed with tiredness and delirious joy. A new and glorious dawn of rest time with those I love more than anything in the world is just around the corner. I think that dawn will sneak up this year, for a different Christmas is planned. My dearest Da is going to be in hospital, and I will be with him and my Ma. I am sure I will sit and chat with them both in the quiet wards. I'll crochet the blanket I should have finished by now, a present for my Ma that has been on the go since this time last year. I am sure my brothers and sisters will appear, and we will catch up and tell jokes. I'll cuddle up with my loved one and laugh with my friends.

That's the thing about Christmas, see? LOVE is the new and glorious dawn. And, no matter how weary we might be now, no matter what challenges we have yet to face, it is love that will creep up and redeem us, energise us and grant us peace. That love is, of course, revealed in the Gospels: God chooses to become a vulnerable baby born to refugee parents in a cold cave-stable in an occupied land. You can't say the Gospels are innocent of the cruelty of  life. But, the child brings love, tenderness and hope to the world. The child brings joy where there was none, and laughter where there were tears. The child brings a new and glorious dawn - to rich, to poor, to good and bad, to employed and unemployed, to Christian and those of other faiths, to everyone.

The child will bring such a dawn again. 

Monday 16 December 2013

The Tender Time of Advent (repost)

When a woman is carrying a child she develops a certain instinct of self-defence. It is not selfishness; it is not egotism. It is absorption into the life within, a folding of self, like a little tent around the child's frailty, a God-like instinct to cherish, and some day bring forth, the life. A closing upon it like petals of a flower closing upon the dew that shines in its heart. This is precisely the attitude we must have to Christ, the life within us, in the Advent of our contemplation.
By his own will Christ was dependent on Mary during Advent: he was absolutely helpless; he could go nowhere but where she chose to take him; he could not speak; her breathing was his breath; his heart beat in the beating of her heart. Today Christ is dependent upon us.
This dependence of Christ lays a great trust upon us. During this tender time of Advent we must carry him in our hearts to wherever he wants to go, and there are many places to which he may never go unless we take him to them.
The Road of God - Caryll Houselander, 2006

I thought of this reading the moment a friend of mine posted a striking and completely absorbing image of the visitation on her Facebook page. It has taken me this long to dig it out. I love these words - I love their tenderness, and their femininity. I love the gentle grace of which they speak.

Saturday 7 December 2013

In a nutshell

I have had cause to think about hazelnuts recently. I see their fallen shells crushed on the woodland floor beneath my feet as I trudge through late autumn trees, admiring colours, kicking leaves, stopping to watch a hungry squirrel find his secret stash. Every time I see them I think of a passage from Julian of Norwich. In a vision Julian sees God holding something insignificant in his hand, it turns out to be the whole of the universe.
"And in this he showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed to me, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: What can this be? I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen into nothing. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God."
I love that passage. It has made the hazelnut the most romantic nut I know. I can never see them, nor even their discarded shells without thinking about love and eternity. It makes a walk through an autumn forest quite an emotional adventure. It lasts and always will because God loves it. 

Another quote has been haunting me recently. All This Life And Heaven Too quoted it in a beautiful peace about waking before the dawn. Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. For me this expresses completely those moments when you celebrate the future before it has come to pass. The quote resonates profoundly with me. I long for peace and rest, and I long to be less busy, but in the same moment I am truly rested and at peace because I know my time will come. Advent is always busy, yet soon I will rest with those I love, and celebrate Christmas and New Year, quietly and simply. I sleep deeply at the moment, perhaps because I am so tired, but when I come home from work I am quick to completely forget the stresses and strains of the day. My weekends are jam packed with appointments to work, care for those I love, do chores, drive around half the country (average weekend mileage, err 300 ish?). Yet, amidst all that I am happy, full of hope for the future and walking steadily towards it. Like I say, my time will come.

Next time I see a hazelnut I am going to pick it up and keep it in my pocket. Unless I give it to someone I love. And it will last forever. So many things last because of love.

I am looking after the my niece and nephew tonight, and they are sleeping soundly up the stairs. Whilst they have been dreaming I have been making a chicken curry to give to my parents tomorrow. They are under the weather at present, and I thought they would need a meal or two in the freezer to see them through the week. I am going to make them a bolognese sauce too. I'd share the recipes for these things, but that they are so simple and you can look them up anywhere. Why not just make a quick treat for someone you know affected by the winter lurgies? I have a few cures recorded here and here