I can't quite put my finger on it, but W.H. Auden really has Advent and Christmastide down for me. Those seasons are never quite as bright and shiny as nostalgia demands, but the joy for me when I truly catch hold of them is deeper than our secular holiday might proclaim. I think Auden's connection has something to do with the deep sadness and distress and longing of his own life...something that requires more than just bright, shiny, and happy to deal with. It requires actual deep joy, deep peace, deeper than the surface--penetrating to the dark places.
He "gets" why we need the Light so much because he has seen the darkness.
I came across this stanza from a poem of his, "Alone, alone" today:
"We who must die demand a miracle.
How could the Eternal do a temporal act,
The Infinite become a finite fact?
Nothing can save us that is possible:
We who must die demand a miracle."
Our very lives (and what we, as human beings have done with them) demand something deeper. There is some amazing thing that must happen to shake us from our complacency. Yet we have even managed to turn this Christ-Mass into a time of auto-pilot because there seems so much to do...cards to get out, services to plan, staff evaluations to do, house to clean AND decorate before the youth arrive for their party, "child" care to plan for when we go on vacation over the holidays.
I'm pondering this in the context of Auden because my "to do" list actually needs to be done--especially as it pertains to planning and carrying out worship and end of year things, but I think there is a holier way to do it, a way which tempers the manic joy of making sure that everything is done in order to fulfill my Victorian and administrative fantasies and simply asks, "What needs to be done in order that we all may experience the wonder of Incarnation again? What needs to be done in order to help my work and home function in such a way as is faithful to God's call in our lives?"
I hope that this year we are not required to save a parking space for the donkey and upgrade the accommodations so as not to offend ourselves (though the Occupant has never been offended thus). For the part of my life and the lives around me which don't want the smell of sheep dung mingled with our cinnamon and evergreen, I pray that God might know the depth of miracle we need.
Intangible Religious Benefits
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