The dogs bark at the battered sun and rain hangs unwillingly in the morbid sky. Cold, but not so cold as to worry. November, the days of turning the past to the future as we pass through All Saints, All Souls and on to Remembrance. November, when the sad sun slips away and nerves are edgy for a new year. R S Thomas ends his poem "Pluperfect" with these words:
"Where are you? I
shouted, growing old in
the interval between here and now."
November is such a space between "here and now". A time for shouting with Thomas, "Where are you?" as the warmth dribbles away and we remember the people we have lost, the people we long for, and perhaps the God who slips too easily past us in the sly memories that clench our hearts. Who have you lost? There will be someone, perhaps many people. Mostly they will have died. But sometimes we have lost the living through the brokenness of our lives. "Where are you?" is the cry we have all made, if we have lost anyone at all.
The interval between here and now is populated by "so great a cloud of witnesses" and those who have gone before us will not be made perfect without us. The interval between here and now, between space and time, is where we can slip into eternity and find the meaning of all our lives together.
The old guards change as autumn commands the squadding leaves. We march to the cenotaphs of our own memories: parents, sisters, brothers, lovers, friends, children. "Where are you?" we cry and stretch our memories to touch the faces we loved and lost. Only the dead are un-bereaved, for they know the coming of the living. This simple hope beats out the rhythm of our marching - that death shall have no dominion, that eternal life will erupt in the very space between here and now where sorrow constricts our living and despair hangs over us like a clouded moon. Jesus holds open the space between here and now. It is a painful space, no bigger than the eye of a needle, a narrow gate, yet there is room for us to pass if we know the least thing about love. And that is where we may hang our hope - on the crucified God whose loving hands reach out eagerly to us.
November passes, as all time, and Advent comes, bursting with Christmas hope. We have walked again the valley of the shadow, and Christ smiles again in the donkey's breath, the smell of the hay and the cry of the living child.