Adventus* by Paul Hooker

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem….”

Luke 2:15

What proximate apocalypse arrives tomorrow?
Lost key lost love cancer butterfly extinction
blood on the floor of schoolyards sanctuaries—
must we endure yet more of heaven’s plan?
Do you dare to raise your eyes, peek between
the stars to see the angels turn for home
after they have rearranged your dreams?
After the dream comes the dark.

“Be not afraid”: why do the blessèd say this
when the only reasonable response is fear
or maybe flight if you can make your feet work?
Are you not supposed to fear the beast?
When you meet a bear—or host of angels—
and your back’s against the wall, will you stand
your ground before the feral claws of glory?
After the glory comes the dark.

Do you yearn to leave the sheep and wander
into town to search for manger mother
child aglow with heaven’s subtle light;
leave the eastern palaces to track a star,
offer homage at the hard world’s fraying edge;
leave the boats and nets and trail a migrant
preacher pinned like a butterfly to a cross?
After the cross comes the dark.

And who knows what might happen in the dark?

 

 

* “Adventus” is a Latin word meaning, “arrival” or “coming.” It is the word from which English draws the term, “Advent.” Christians use the latter term to describe their expectant hope for the arrival of God’s kingdom. These days, the news of the kingdom’s coming raises more questions than it answers.

 

Paul Hooker is Associate Dean for Ministerial Formation and Advanced Studies at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, TX, a position to which he came after 34 years in various pastoral and administrative positions in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee (BA), Union Presbyterian Seminary (D Min), and Emory University (Ph.D.). His published work includes a commentary on 1 and 2 Chronicles and a volume on Israelite and Judaean monarchical chronology, parts of the PC(USA) Book of Order (to which he contributed as part of the Form of Government Task Force), and poems in various periodicals. He is married to Pat Thiede, and is a father and grandfather. He plays bass guitar and fly fishes for trout. After years as a curmudgeon-in-training, he is now fully certified as a curmudgeon.