The poet, WH Auden, once wrote a longer piece called “For the Time Being” in which he envisions the characters of the Christmas story speaking in modern tongue and describing the events that surrounded the birth of Jesus. I first read the piece among a group of friends when I was in seminary and parts of it have always stuck with me and periodically make a sermon. This year, as I was rereading it, one section of it feels somewhat more appropriate than others.
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off.
Perhaps this arises for me from the residual disappointment that I have been feeling after Black Friday stretched into Thanksgiving but I have been in somewhat of a funk the last few weeks.
Advent is both a time to sit in darkness and a time to wait for the coming Christ child to emerge from the wreckage and weariness of the current age. And I wonder what it would be like to live as if something magical and life-altering were about to enter into the human realm once again. Would our minds soon forget its presence in the effort to speed along towards the next holiday (holy day?) on the calendar? Would we have become drunk with our own loathing and emerge from the Christmas season with a bad hangover and a full belly in a world in which, for so many, that is not the case? Perhaps not.
Perhaps we have not lost our collective ability to dream dreams and have visions, anymore so than we have lost our child-like desire to reach out and help our brethren and sistren who appear in our lives each moment with needs and hopes and aspirations like our own. Perhaps in this season of preparation and struggle, this season in which we are the people who dwell in darkness, perhaps we can still see a great light. Perhaps we can reclaim the mission of the one who came before us, born from the union of Spirt and flesh, carried by a young, unmarried woman, and birthed in a place of lowly esteem. Perhaps Jesus will come to Christmas this year.