Monday, 11 January 2010

Godisnowhere

God is nowhere
In the walking past of Big Issue Sellers
In the jangling of Christmas frenzy
In the rush to the January Sales
In the slamming of doors
In the closing of hearts
In ignoring need
In saying ‘No’

God is now here
In coming together in community
In the smiling face of a stranger
In random acts of kindness
In the words ‘after you’
In hearts open to love
In relationships
In saying ‘Yes’


This was our parish Christmas Card this year – a clever visual word trick that contrasts the manic worldiness of Advent against the real reason for this season of preparation – preparation of the ‘self’ rather than the selfish; a criticism of an attitude that thinks ‘Christmas would be much more fun if we didn’t have to think about God’

Trying to be clever, myself, I picked out another wordy option
‘God I snow here’. And God decided to play along. I have always thought that, if God goes to all that trouble of making every snowflake unique, He must like snow too.

Now I apologise to all those people living with the extremes of climate each and every year – but this was a big thing for us – it snowed! And it didn’t just snow; it snowed and snowed and snowed until, God bless Britain – within less than 24 hours we were brought to a standstill. A forty minute commuter drive into school became a return arctic expedition that took three hours; crawling; sliding; waiting; skidding. Buses slid backwards down main streets; motorways and airports became car parks; shops, schools and offices were closed. People gratefully reached the refuge of their own front door and stayed there, living on hot chocolate and Christmas leftovers; accepting the advice to ‘stay at home’.

By the next day the world had become becalmed; few people argued with the advice ‘not to travel’. There was nowhere to go and no safe way to get there. But it almost didn’t matter - the snow was having an effect, not only on the outward busyness of life but on the interior world as well. Snow had fallen, as it does, on the just and the unjust – just the same. The beautiful; the natural;
the concrete; the ugly had all had their blessing of manna from Heaven. And there was the magic, the transformation, the something in the light, the quiet, the presence that only snow can bring. The presence that said ‘Look’ and we did and we saw the expanse of fields, the dark silhouettes of trees, the contrasts of light and shade, the sculptural beauty of a fence or a whirligig washing line. The everyday made exquisite; the mundane magical; the commonplace captivating. Look, look, look.

And, seeing a lesson being learnt - the snow stayed. Staying in became unbearable – the snow tapping at the windows ‘can you not see me? how lovely I am?’ –the computers, tv’s and wi fi’s left to one side; people bundled themselves into thick winter woollies, the Christmas presents of scarves, hats and gloves, and boots and wellies retrieved from the back of cupboards and corners of sheds. The search for sleds or anything that would slide bumpily down a roadside slope. Then, travelling further afield into country parks and playgrounds. And not just children, but families; fathers and mothers given a ‘snow day’ to be children again – to build snowmen, angels, throw snowballs – to be foolish, to play and to laugh.

Life’s pace slowed- difficult to drive at any more than ten or fifteen miles an hour – and people did; patiently, considerately. Rows of neighbours came together to clear the paths and move stranded cars. Questions were asked on tv ‘Why weren’t we ready?. Questions were asked in the street ‘Are you all right?’, ‘How are you getting home?’ We went back to basics – to sensible clothes, to the corner shop, to warming food and sleep. And there was time; to read; to catch up; to think. The winter of our ancestors – a gift to today.

And the Bishop spoke on the radio and said that people didn’t have to come to church on Sunday – but they did – because they knew - God is Now Here.

wordinthehand

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