An Advent Message from our Minister


Grey waters, vast 

as an area of prayer 

that one enters. Daily 

over a period of years 

I have let my eye rest on them. 

Was I waiting for something? 


but that continuous waving 

that is without meaning 


Ah, but a rare bird is 

rare. It is when one is not looking 

at times one is not there 

that it comes. 

You must wear your eyes out 

as others their knees. 

I became the hermit 

of the rocks, habited with the wind 

and the mist. There were days, 

so beautiful the emptiness 

it might have filled, 

its absence 

was as its presence; not to be told 

any more, so single my mind 

after its long fast, 

my watching from praying. 

– R.S. Thomas 

in Laboratories of the Spirit, 1975 

At first glance this poem doesn’t seem connected with the season of Advent but on reflection it acknowledges the power of waiting, of being patient in life. Thomas compares the mystery of prayer to gazing towards the endless sea with the hope of glimpsing something of value. In our society we are fed the constant messages of ‘speed up’ and ‘don’t waste time’ – in fast food restaurants we are bombarded with reds and yellows to persuade us to hurry up and computers boast the incredible speed of their microchips. ‘Drive Thrus’ are cropping up everywhere! The season of Advent invites our souls to inhabit the darkness and wait, to make peace with the gentle process of seeing what might emerge. We know that a holy birth is in the runes but for now we have to survive the long nights and adapt to the spiritual practice of watching the shadows with uncertainty. We might want to ask questions in this time of not knowing. Waiting in the darkness before the excitement of a birth and before the promise of the returning sun of the winter solstice can make us feel more vulnerable and smaller but this period of fallow in Advent is full of riches. Can we dare to accept the many invitations offered to us at Advent? To slow down, to live in anticipation and befriend the fertile regions of silence, inaction and uncertainty in our lives. Can you allow yourself to fall into Advent fully and not try and race onto Christmas? 

John Harley