He is that great void
we must enter, calling
to one another on our way
in the direction from which
he blows. What matter
if we should never arrive
to breed or to winter
in the climate of our conception?
Enough we have been given wings
and a needle in the mind
to respond to his bleak north.
There are times even at the Pole
when he, too, pauses in his withdrawal,
so that it is light there all night long.

R.S. Thomas watched birds, and for those who do, there is an awe when seeing migrating flocks. When I was a little girl (and not so little) I used to envy them, wondering where they were going to spend a warmer winter than I was. I’d watch in wonder, as I still do, the way they seemed to know by instinct where to go, and how the odd stray one would be brought back into the flock. Is this how we are with God?

I always listen with interest, but dread, to conversion stories. Interest, because it is wonderful to be allowed to hear how God has brought others to him, dread because, well, when I am asked for mine, I have none. I am like those migrating birds I think. I have always, like the needle pointing to the magnetic north, gone in that direction. The first time I read St Augustine’s

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

St Augustine, Confessions

I knew it was true. It was what I’d always known. Like that migrating bird I knew I was called.

The migrating bird arrives after a long journey. So, I believe, shall we. I don’t know if the bird knows she will arrive, but then she has been there before. We journey, the theme of this week’s readings, in hope. It would not be an R.S. Thomas poem unless there was a sense of the hardship and of the doubts which arise when God seems to be absent, and we know, by now, to expect the poet to point us in the direction of an apophatic approach to God – seeing him in what he is not.

We journey in hope, like those migrating birds, and our hearts are restless, so much so that we press on, eager to get to the destination, not stopping to capture those small ephiphanies which are a foretaste of that wider felicity which awaits us. In our hustle and bustle, especially at this time of the year, we risk missing the whole point of Advent – we press on to the manger, but reach it exhausted and miss what the journey brings. As we enter this third week, let us pause and take stock – and thank God for his blessings, even in this darkest of times.

There is an #adventbookclub using “Frequencies of God” by Carys Walsh and you can support the publisher by buying it here: https://canterburypress.hymnsam.co.uk/books/9781786220882/frequencies-of-god. We’ll be running this club on Twitter and Facebook, and you are welcome to join in with thoughts and comments. Other folk doing this are https://grahart.wordpress.com/ and https://becausegodislove.wordpress.com/ so please pop over and read their thoughts too!