Advent | Keeping the Beautiful Way beautiful

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood” (John 1:14)

Since becoming a full-time dad, my community is now little toddlers and parents, meeting together disparately across the city each day.

We’ve also chosen to be a car-free family – so I walk, quite a lot.
I like walking the fresh, green, wild paths. Here I see miracles.

Like my daughter almost falling out her pram with excitement, seeing a bird up high, trying to smell any plant I wheel her past.

Miracles like the nervous jays, bobbing wrens, speckled thrushes and bullfinches. The family of deer we’re getting to know, the cheeky weasel that leaps out of sight, the barn owls standing sentinel in the gloom.

My favourite path is one I cycled along to my first church youth worker job.
It turns out my friend used to do the same to her work too. She calls it the ‘Beautiful Way’.

I start walking slowly, as baby is asleep.

I’m not fighting time or racing anyone to my destination.

These are the moments. Sometimes pausing, it emerges slowly, sometimes with shock and surprise. I am astounded by beauty.

Jolting beauty through which I encounter G-D. Beauty that relaxes and opens me enough to enjoy chance encounters with others on the path.

As I write, dry leaves roar up on the wind through dead branches,
as if the trees are on fire. This is holy ground.

Further along, I part the waters of a large puddle with the pram’s wheels,
stepping closely and quickly behind the wheel, as if on dry land. My second Moshe moment makes me grin.

This delights dog walkers ahead, who took five minutes to make their crossing. We share the absurdity of the moment – with a hushed laugh (don’t wake the bairn!)

So naturally, Durham County Council plans to build a big road right through Eden.

A ‘relief’ road.
Which will quickly fill up, as people are encouraged to make even more short, unnecessary journeys.

Misguided fostering of laziness, poor fitness and health, pollution and ecocide.

This is why, right now, I’m anti-Advent. I’m fearful for this special place.

I ‘get’ looking forward to the birth of Yeshua in the near future,
but I’m scared for what else the future holds.

Does my fear have a place in Advent?

I think of Yosef’s angst, taking a dream at face value, going against what his family, culture and laws told him was right, embodying G -D’s gentle justice for the downtrodden.

Of young Miryam, risking her very life to give birth to Love.

The thing about fear is that it’s bigger in the moment than the re-telling. The familiarity of the Advent story can blind us to the reality and risk this young family faced.

Can we hold this present-fear and future-hope together? Can we walk in the way that Miryam and Yosef did?

Those who first followed Yeshua were called followers of The Way.

I am looking forwards, in my life, and for the wilds to try and keep the Beautiful Way beautiful.

If you want to follow the campaign against new road building in Durham’s green spaces, or to pray for those fighting it, follow ‘Durham Road Block’ on Facebook.

This reflection was written by Tadz Billam, F.Y.T Trustee, for our Advent Series on John 1:14 from the message (‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.’).