The ‘news’ at this time of the year, if we can let it enter into us, is astonishing. ‘Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill laid low.’ As usual, it is hidden parable language – saying something simple, even silly, but unlocking a world view that is life changing.
I came across the story of Andrew and Sarah this week. Andrew is an English prince, born into privilege, money and fame before he has actually done anything. He doesn’t have to work. He can just enjoy himself. He doesn’t have to ask, ‘What do I really want to do with my life?’ He can put that off. True, he served in the navy for a while but not as a total commitment for life. He doesn’t have to make that kind of choice. He can make the most of his position and opportunities. His future is secure. Eventually he settles on one person whom he asks to be his wife. Sarah comes from a family close to the royals but it is a broken family and gives her few guidelines for life and certainly not life in the public eye as wife of a prince.
All goes well for a while but gradually the lack of something solid in their lives leaves them both chasing the frills of life rather than its substance. As the story unfolds, they both go their separate ways, seeking satisfaction in shadows and illusions. Their marriage fails and they divorce and the Queen, Andrew’s mother, calls the year it happened ‘horrible’. The public turn against the couple who, in their different ways, go deeper and deeper into the dark valley of disaster.
But the story ends on a bright note. They have both kept up contact with one another and their children, and have both tasted the bitterness of knowing they have brought all their troubles on themselves. Having reached this low point, like the story of the prodigal son, their eyes are opening and the suggestion of the storyteller is that they are ready to come together again, to ‘remarry’, to make a new start, this time much wiser people, people who have tasted the worst and are now humbly ready for the best. The mountains have been lowered and the valleys filled.
The royal family in England perform a great service. They are up there, like a mirror in a washroom, where we can see ourselves and adjust our ways without anyone noticing. Like the actors in a Shakespearean tragedy, their lives are open for us to inspect and maybe draw some conclusions for our own lives. What Advent tells us is, if we search, we are certain to find. But our choices have to be authentic, that is, we find ourselves in searching to serve others. If we only think of ourselves, we are lost.
December 5, 2021 Advent Sunday 2C Bar 5:1-9 Phil 1:3…11 Lk 3:1-6