"For, over all, the glory of the Lord will be a canopy and a tent to give shade from the heat, refuge and shelter from the storm and the rain." (Isaiah 4:6)
A canopy and a tent. In the summer times my mother would wash the bed sheets and spread them out over the long grass in the big back garden. And we would crawl under the sheets, thinking of them as tents, white tents of the desert lit up by the summer sun.
I was always looking out for shelters, secret places of refuge and, in my adult spiritual life I have been drawn to the tents of the Old Testament. The Tent of Meeting where Moses met with God; the tent of Abraham where God appeared in the guise of three angelic strangers.
We used to go to the grotto in Castlegar at home during the month of May across the rocky fields that might have been a quarry and there we imagined and lived all sorts of adventures in palaces and boats. And we found there places to shelter.
I found one that I was particularly pleased with in a different field. A large rock overhung by a white thorn bush that I saw saw as a perfect shelter from the rain.
A day came when we were coming home for the grotto as a family. Usually we went as children together with our friends but this time we were just ourselves together with Mam & Dad. It started to rain so I led my whole family to my special shelter but, as we stood beneath the bush, the rain got heavier and we got saturated because the bush was not capable of giving that kind of shelter.
In life we sometimes go in search of shelter and refuge in places that cannot in fact shelter us at all. They only have the appearance of giving shelter and we end up totally exposed to the storms that we seek to escape.
Jesus offers Himself as a sure and certain refuge from all that assails us. The journey of Advent leads us to that place, though we think nothing of it because it is so poor and shabby compared to what is offered by the world. Yet, the stable where Life is born is filled with all the spiritual warmth and love that outlasts all the other refuges that we turn to.
"Preserve me O God, I take refuge in You" (Psalm 16)
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