This was the moment

Assistant Rector's House, December 1999

The Revd Eileen McLeanThe season of Advent is always a time of looking forward into the future. It is a time of waiting, expecting, hoping, longing - all words of anticipation, words which look forward to an event ahead. This particular Advent of 1999, as we approach a new millennium, there’s a feeling of expectation on a larger scale. In the shops, side by side with Christmas cards, are cards saying ‘A Happy Millennium’, conveying wishes that completely new starts will be made in people’s lives - as though just the change from 19.. to 20.. will accomplish this.

Hope is good on whatever scale it comes - hope gives meaning to life - and I don’t want to dash anyone’s dreams, but perhaps we are investing too much in this particular moment of time. For there was a moment of time two thousand years ago when a new start WAS made, when history reached a turning point - and without reference to that there is a hollowness in all our present hoping.

I love this poem by U.A.Fanthorpe:

This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces

And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect

Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the Kingdom of heaven

Two thousand years on from that momentous date, it is as true now as then that Christ comes when we are least expecting him. He comes in the midst of the sheer ordinariness of life. He comes and is recognised by those people, believers and unbelievers, who are open to moments of vision, who see revelations of his love in the strangest of places, and know they are NOW touched by the Kingdom of heaven. To those who are hoping for miracles at the new millennium, we must show that miracles are there for the taking, wherever Christ’s loving presence is revealed in acts of kindness, in struggles for justice, in the pursuance of truth.

‘Come, O Come Emmanuel…. in cloud of majesty and awe’ we will sing in these next weeks, and ‘Lo, he comes with clouds descending’ - visions of the last days, which are as mysterious in their meaning now as they were when the first Christians speculated about Christ’s return in glory. In such majestic words we express our yearning for that new and perfect creation where there is no longer any suffering or anxiety or death. But really we are expressing a longing for something which is already here. Christ is alive and at work in his world NOW. That’s what the incarnation is about. At that turning point in history of 2000 years ago eternity came into time.

All things were lying in peace and silence, and night in her swift course was half spent, when your all powerful word leapt from your royal throne in heaven…
Orthodox Vespers for Christmas Night

And here he is still – God With Us.

Eileen McLean
© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 30th November 1999