Before I lead an assembly at school or whenever I am asked to write or say anything to do with Christian living or the spiritual life, I usually have that nagging awareness that I am part of weak and sinful humanity, prone to many temptations and addicted to many comforts. That said, these are my thoughts as we enter Advent.
Advent gives us another opportunity to make a new year’s resolution. Obviously we all have January 1st, those of us in education have the start of the school year in September and now we have the beginning of the Church’s year. Three opportunities for making resolutions and three great chances for glorious failure – failures that, if we are not watchful, can drag us down into Jeremiah’s pit.
Advent comes to offer us hope and expectancy. The hope and expectancy of Christ being born in us again. The hope and indeed certainty that Christ is so much bigger than our failures. His love, as always, is waiting to enfold us anew. Christ, as always, is calling us to share more fully in his life, offering his healing, nurturing and consoling love at each stage of our journey. What can I share with you this Advent? I don’t think I can do any better than point you to the words of Thomas Merton, who was a Trappist monk.
“Life is very simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent to God and God is shining through it all the time. This is not a fable or a nice story. It is true. God manifests himself everywhere, in everything, in people and in things and in nature and in events. You cannot be without God. It’s impossible. Simply impossible. The only thing is we don’t see it.”
I would say life is simple but definitely not easy. We have discovered a multitude of ways of making life difficult for ourselves and of course the events of life can conspire against us. Accidents, chronic illnesses, relationships that don’t turn out as expected, gender confusions… all of these and many more can lead us into the pit.
Yes, I do believe that God is shining through all the time and I am often aware of the presence of God. When walking in the Lake District on a beautiful day, when drinking wine with friends, when everything seems to just click at school and—I have to say—when dancing to Abba (I call it dancing, my daughters call it embarrassing).
But I can be completely unaware of God during vast amounts of time: being jam-packed on the Jubilee line, facing an angry and irate parent, sitting through tedious education meetings and listening to “often inane pomposities from the pulpit” (to quote A. Towey p.368 from his recent book—slightly out of context).
So I have a simple Advent resolution which is the one I really should make every day. I will simply (that word again) try to become more aware of God in the events of life. In those moments I consider to be the good moments but also in the moments I would rather not experience.
May we all be aware of God in the laundry as well as the ecstasy.