I love the ‘not-yet’ seasons of the year, Advent and Lent, when we look forward (sometimes patiently) to the celebrations of Christmas and Easter. Many of us can sympathise with the child who prayed “Lord, please give me patience and give it to me right now!”
Waiting is unpopular. We desperately try to guess which checkout queue is moving fastest. We begrudge the extra time spent waiting for late buses, trains or people. We loathe being told to “just hold” on the telephone.
Yet God’s people are frequently encouraged to wait upon God, to look for the signs of his work in the world, to hope and pray and strive for this world to be more like his Kingdom. Indeed, Jesus himself was acclaimed as the Christ, “the one we’ve been waiting for”, the fulfilment of centuries of longing.
In Lent and Advent, I always try to read at least one more reflective book, sometimes as part of a group. This year, please let me commend two in particular – The Glorious Journey by Liam Kelly, based upon the film The Two Popes, and Frequencies of God, written by one of our own clergy, Carys Walsh, based on the poems of R S Thomas.
Carys is Assistant Priest at Saints Peter and Paul, St Michael’s and All Saints’ Churches in Kettering, and our Curate Training Officer. The Church Times has said her book “should become a classic” while Mark Oakley (Dean of St John’s College, Cambridge) has commended it for being “infectious, poignant and inspiriting”. I agree with them both – it’s a mind-enlarging and soul-refreshing read.
The book offers five weeks of daily poem-based reflections focused on waiting, accepting, journeying, birthing and seeing, which lead us through the anticipation of Advent to the celebration of Christmas.
In one particularly helpful passage, Carys reflects that in waiting upon God “we may find ourselves discovering that there is a tightrope of desire and longing to be walked, which calls out from us a depth of yearning for God, and demands focus and surrender as we teeter between longing for God to speak and knowing that as we wait, we know God more”.
As we prepare to celebrate Jesus first coming into our world, and meet him in our daily lives, may we all come to know God more this Advent.
With my prayers and best wishes for a holy and inspiring Advent,
Bishop of Brixworth