Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Emmanuel, God with us
In T.S.Eliot's poem The Waste Land there are these wonderful lines towards the end:
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is alwasy another one walking beside you...
In his notes accompanying the poem Eliot explains that he had in mind the story that was told of Shackleton's Antartic expedition: how the party of explorers, when at the extremity of their strength, repeatedly felt that there was one more member than could actually be counted. It's also hard not to imagine that Eliot's Christian faith woudl also have dredged up his own memories of stories from the Bible where others had a similar experience. Like for example King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who, looking into the burning fiery furnace into which Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had been caste for refusing to worship idols, saw an amazing sight:
"Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? Yet I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." (Daniel 3:24-25)
So for me, as for Eliot, the idea of God with us has come to mean a great deal. And as we continue this Nativity Fast - or in my case, prepare for Advent - it is with eager anticipation of the celebration of when Christ came among us and stayed.