I was blessed to hear our deacon-in-training preach this morning, so instead of a sermon for Advent 2, I am sharing the reflection from the closing Eucharist of yesterday’s Advent Quiet Day at St Peter’s Episcopal Church, Lakewood, Ohio.
The practice of joy, of setting light to our souls, is a holy calling.
I wrote on Twitter this week about the winnowing fork and the burning of chaff, “I am about ready for some chaff to be burned away: Bring it on!” Of course, we are advised to be careful what we wish for. But prayers are not wishes. Prayer is less careful, less cautious. In fact I think that our most reckless prayer is where we find ourselves closest to what God has prepared for us and for our salvation: Bring it on.
We may be surprised at what is burned away. We may need to think twice about reaching into the flames to pull back a burning brand; but we may well, too, be surprised by joy to find in the fire the face of God looking back at us, unhindered and unhazed by the dust and ashes, the chaff that gets in our eyes and blurs our vision.
The practice of joy, of setting light to our souls has its hard moments. It has its long nights. It has its season of Advent, darkness closing in, chasing light further into the midwinter midnight. Yet that season of waiting, of watching, of chasing has its own joy, if only we keep it in sight, not as a goal but as a method of being, a way of living, as W.H. Auden would say, in the meantime.
Another favourite poet, R.S. Thomas wrote of kneeling in prayer, “waiting for the God/To speak.”
Prompt me, O God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting. – R.S. Thomas, Kneeling
The meaning, the joy, is in the meantime.