Advent is about arrival, and arrivals are often mysterious and unexpected. The saying goes, “It is better to travel than to arrive” and that infers the uncertainty of arrival. Travelling has an aim which ends in arrival. But arrival has an unknown purpose and is an exploration.
The Latin verb advenio from which Advent comes can mean in the perfect tense “to be present”. So this verb encompasses both the travel and the arrival. And a tricky thing about arriving is seeing its significance. It is often hidden at first, then the significance breaks open, and the arrival is completed and perfect.
This delay happens so often in our lives. We travel along and along, uncertain, waiting to understand a relationship. To see the completion of a family happening, to achieve a great wish. Unexpectedly clarity and closure arrives giving joy, celebration, and relief.
The arrival of the baby at our Christmas tide was mysterious and bewildering. It was unforeseen. Neither shepherds nor kings expected it. Nor had Joseph and Mary.
The event was about travelling and arrival. Uncertainty and perfection. The beginning of another journey.
I’ll end with T S Eliot:
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
– Caroline Montagu, parishioner at Melplash