A glimmer of light

At the onset of Advent the world feels a slightly lighter place after a fairly grim year. The news over the past fortnight of the imminent arrival of vaccines on a broad scale brings with it the prospect of a return to something much more like normality. The end of lockdown, albeit with the continuation of some restrictions into Tier 2, bringing relief to some. The promise of a brief Christmas period where the epidemic of loneliness and family fracture can briefly be addressed. The growing prospects of a peaceful transition into a less dysfunctional administration on the other side of the Atlantic. The possibility, however remote, that our EU separation could still be amicable and mutually beneficial. 2020 is not a year that any will look back on with much pleasure, and the aftermath of the collective traumas will last, but it did feel as if there was at least a little weak sunlight on the horizon at last…

With just two weeks of term to go the collective staff energy will take them through, though we are all praying that there are no interruptions to the Year 11 prelim. exams which are scheduled for the coming week and-a-bit. With the benefit of hindsight that earlier finish has turned out to be such a good bit of planning, though of course the term dates were set in October 2018 when life was dramatically different. Who could have guessed what was to come? Who could possibly have foretold that such extraordinary events would have preoccupied us all, to the exclusion of almost everything else? And yet Advent has arrived yet again and will be greeted with custom and ritual as always, albeit diluted and digital; Carol Services will be online, and Christmas Concerts will have to be thinly-populated affairs. Second best will have to do to complete the saddest of years, but hope still shines as always as the festive season arrives.

George Herbert, the 17th century Bemerton based poet wrote thus in ‘Christmas II’:

“I will go searching, till I find a sun
Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
As frost-nipped suns look sadly.
Then we will sing, and shine all our own day,
And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev’n His beams sing, and my music shine.”

Wonderful words to end with. Four hundred years ago Herbert wrote of the promise of the Advent Season, and that is still there whatever 2020 has had to throw at us.