…as if He were a seed in our garden, or a small flash of light for our pupil, He shone forth and diffused and filled the earth.
(Saint Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns for the Nativity)
Days crack like soil.
In the parts of the world where summer parches
we wait like potholes for the rain.
December’s slow refrain is singing
songs that speak of joy. Repeat
the sound of joy, though it may cloy
against the tune of years. We see
the line of kings; the throne, the rings
disappoint. The crown is twisted;
what can grow between these thorns?
A king, smaller than a seed
and vaster than the spheres.
One candle grows short, a second descends,
And three others wait for the rising of light.
Wicks burn down and dwindle, yet hope still appends
The longing of prayers in the slow Advent night.
In the day, though the shouting of sun may shut out
The lamenting of captives, yet watch in the night,
For Advent is slowing: our rushing, our doubt,
Yes, Advent is dwindling – right down to the quick –
And Advent is hoping, and looking, though sight
Is obscured, and deferred hope makes the heart sick.
Advent is finding new candles to light:
When the length of the waiting diminishes cheer,
The light still will flicker, to shut out all fear.
Calendar flaps decked with chocolate each day;
Shops tinsel-lined as though God intended
The season to dazzle our wallets away.
Advent is not for the first-fruits of commerce,
Nor is it for month-long pre-parties and drinks,
And not for fluoro-lit reindeers dispersed
In gardens, despite what the suburbs may think.
No, Advent is waiting: for succour, for light.
Advent is silence, four centuries’ thirst
And prophecies ringing on into the night.
Christmas appeases, but mourning comes first:
Emmanuel promised, but light not yet here;
Our night-time rejoicing, till dawn shall appear.