19 December 2015
Despite the heavy rains and strong winds, the temperatures each day seem to be defying all expectations at winter. But the days are still closing in early and darkness seems to fall soon after lunchtime.
In the midst of all the bustle and the rush surrounding the preparations for Christmas, two of us abandoned all this flurry early this afternoon and went for walks by the the banks of the River Nanny in Laytown, and walks on the beaches in Laytown and Bettystown on the east Meath coast, about 50 km north of Dublin.
The River Nanny flows from Julianstown into the sea at Laytown, where the mouth of the river forms a tidal estuary. The fish in the river at the estuary include mullet, trout, eels, gobies and flounder, but no salmon – according to local folklore, Saint Patrick banished all the salmon from the river.
I have been told that close to the river there is a spring known as Saint Patrick’s Well, but the path to it is overgrown and I did not find the well this afternoon. Indeed, the river bank where I found my way down to the estuary was scattered sadly with builder’s rubble and rubbish.
Further east, I had a short walk on the beach at Laytown in the dimming lights at mid-afternoon. There were few walkers on the beach, and it was a short moment of calm as I watched the tide coming in.
At one stage, the temperature outside reached 16, although the high winds and clouds overhead made it difficult to feel that this was anything other than deep winter. When he was managing the Hedgehog in Lichfield, Ron Brazier used to say he knew when the Spring temperatures had reached 16 because people would then take their drinks and sit outdoors.
Later, after a short walk on the beach further north at Bettystown, two of us were given a table at one of the two bay windows in Relish, looking out over the sandbanks out to the sea, and down onto the high waves of the high tide.
As daylight turned to dusk and then to dark, and the lights went on in Relish, there was a cosy, comfortable Christmas feeling in the restaurant, safe against the dark and the sea.
Back down on the beach in Bettystown later, the tide was almost completely in, but there were still two people walking with their dogs along the shore where the sea met the sand.
From Monday on, the evenings begin to lengthen again. Hopefully, the short break at Christmas and the New Year will allow time for more walks by river banks and by the sea.
We come to the end of the third week in Advent today [19 December 2015]. During the season of Advent this year, I am working my way through my own Advent Calendar. Each morning, I am inviting you to join me for a few, brief moments in reflecting on the meaning of Advent through the words and meditations of the great German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945).
Bonhoeffer once said:
“God in the midst of lowliness – that is the revolutionary, passionate word of Advent”
Readings (Church of Ireland lectionary): Psalm 115; Zephaniah 3: 14-20; Titus 1: 1-16.
The Collect of the Day:
O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
The Advent Collect:
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.