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The foretelling of a many-splendoured thing

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Giovanni D Tiepolo Saint John the Baptist Preaching,

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Giovanni D Tiepolo Saint John the Baptist Preaching

Thoughts and Meditations on the Readings for the Second Sunday of Advent (Year C)1

By Mgr Alban FSDM

I was in the city centre during the week, there was a man obviously intoxicated, he appeared as though he were living on the street, and he was shouting, “Do you see me, do you think this is my choice? Is this a dream?” No one really noticed what he said, it was the ravings of a day time drunk, someone on the margins of society.

Francis Thompson, wrote beautiful poetry, which says plenty and is all worthwhile. We read that the word of God came to St John the Baptist in the wilderness of sand (Gospel), so too, did the word of God come to Francis Thompson in the wilderness of the streets. Thompson wrote:

The angels keep their ancient places;—
Turn but a stone, and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.2

It couldn’t be put better. Advent is the foretelling of a ‘many-slendoured thing’. It tells of God’s splendour shining forth in simplicity. It announces that we are expecting the return of the King of kings. This King of kings was born into the margins of society, born in a stable, no room in the inn. His itinerant ministry, still in the future saw him hounded by the religious authorities, handed over to the civil power, and ultimately dying, but we know he rose again. Every Sunday of the year is a weekly celebration of the Resurrection.

But do we want to listen to this marginalised man, this Jesus? Do we want to celebrate His birth? Or do we prefer to listen to the “Ho, Ho, Ho” of the long-secularised Father Christmas and to decorate our homes by the somewhat tacky tinsel? Perhaps by making Christmas for the kids, we’ve answered those questions?

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

1. Readings: Baruch 5.1–9, Philippians 1.4–6, 8–11, Luke 3.1–6
2. The Kingdom of God, by Francis Thompson, 1859–1907.

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