It’s amazing how winter rains can highlight some of Los Angeles’s best qualities. This morning, as I went out to my car, I could smell the clean air. I took a deep breath and let the blast of cold hit my lungs. I was awake and alive. The sky was a striking blue accented with white clouds. As I made my way to the office I could see the snow capped mountains that make up the borders to the LA basin.
I see the beauty of such things and want them for myself. I see the images in my mind and think to possess them. If I travel up the mountain I will find pristine snow and somewhere up there tucked behind a rise or around a bend in the road I will come upon a valley half covered in a light dusting of snow. The clear air will highlight the stark contrast of whites and dark greens and blacks. If I listen closely enough I will be able to hear the cry of a bird on winged flight.
But this shall never happen. I’m sure that if I look long enough I will find that perfect valley. That place where beauty and reality collapse into a perfect moment. But that will never happen. Something inside me tells me that I will be looking for that valley for the rest of my earthly life.
“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back”
The author above is right. To go to that valley covered in snow, to hear the cry of the hawk on wing; it is more a going back than a going to. What makes my journey to work so vivid is not that it rained, but that the cleansing power of the rain is just a shadow of the cleansing and the coming of the Christ.
The season of the Church year we are now in is Advent; a time to celebrate the waiting, the longing, the angst of being human. Kierkegaard, who popularized the use of the word angst, saw this dread or angst as a spiritual deficit. At some point in my life I thought that as well. Today, I see it differently. That dread and angst reminds me that I’m a stranger in a strange land. I’m going back. I desire to return to my true country.
So this Christmas, I will remember these things as I celebrate the coming of the Christ; not only his first coming so many years ago, but a celebration of hope in His return someday. We celebrate the rain He brings that will wash away the smog and filth. We look forward to the day when the mountains are covered with snow and our path finds us making our way over a ridge and we come upon a snow dusted valley. Our dreams will be all but forgotten for we will have awoken. We will no longer desire things unseen because we will possess that which is real. And as we make our way down into the valley the King of that country will call to us and say. “Welcome home.”