Reverend Lydia Smith writes ….
A phrase destined to strike weariness into the heart of seasoned commuter and holiday season traveller alike, the rail replacement bus is a big part of travel in many areas. It’s called “bustition” in Australia, apparently – and I don’t think it’s meant as a term of endearment.
As I write, lots of us will be preparing for Christmas journeys – by car to nearby villages … by train (perhaps with rail replacement bus) further afield… by plane even to visit family or friends abroad. Some will be familiar routes, while others may take a bit of planning and the use of a satnav or map.
The Church begins the season of Epiphany – the season of discovery – with a traveller’s tale: the long trek the Magi take to find the new king.
T S Eliot starts his poem about the wise men’s travel story – The Journey of the Magi – this way:
“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year For a journey,
and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
Borrowing the opening lines from a sermon given by seventeenth century bishop and scholar Lancelot Andrewes, Eliot clothes the journey with the reality of English weather as well as giving a sense of its demands. This is an enterprise that asks a lot of the travellers: trust in their knowledge of the night sky (is this really the right star?), resilience when things get a bit less clear, wisdom in interpreting the words of King Herod. In considering what makes up the Magi’s faith, Eliot is reflecting on his own turn towards Christianity, exploring through their experience his journey of faith. The poem doesn’t suggest that faith provides easy answers to life’s tough questions, but it does affirm a deep change in attitude that belief brings, a new perspective on the world.
As we begin a new year, let’s remember these old stories and seek inspiration in them for our journey through 2018.
You can read the Bible’s account of the Magi’s journey in Matthew 2:1-12 or why not read TS Eliot’s poem on the Poetry Archive website (https://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/journey-magi – where you can also hear Eliot read the poem aloud).