In the first episode of the Advent 2022 series exploring Advent & Christmas poetry from the past, I meditate on T.S. Eliot’s The Journey of the Magi.
This week the ancient season of Advent has begun. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning a coming or arrival. Advent waits upon the coming or arrival of Jesus Christ. I’m going to shockingly quote Wikipedia here, because it actually states the meaning of Advent succinctly and well: “the season of Advent in the Christian calendar anticipates the “coming of Christ” from three different perspectives: the physical nativity in Bethlehem, the reception of Christ in the heart of the believer, and the eschatological Second Coming.” In other words, during Advent we wait for Christmas, the celebration of the birth of the Incarnate God, we anticipate his transformative entry into our hearts and our ongoing sanctification, and we declare our expectation that he will come again to judge the living and the dead, as we repeat in the Creed. Advent is multilayered.
This is my justification for kicking off this series with an Epiphany poem. Yes, that’s right—a poem about the wise men. But here’s why I am starting with T.S. Eliot’s “The Journey of the Magi.” Christians are pilgrims, wanderers in the world, not at home but on a journey. Advent comes from the same root word as adventure, and we are these adventurers, pilgrims on a slow, meandering, strange trip home. “The Journey of the Magi” is not a cheery Christmas poem. It lacks joyful shepherds, the anticipation of a beautiful baby, beautiful Mary and trusting Joseph. This is your welcoming space if you’re not feeling particularly joyful in your preparations for Christmas, if you’re feeling far from home, like a broken wanderer, or if you’re on your own particular and confusing journey for the Christ child.
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