I was looking at some snow pictures and came across this photo of the carillon stairs at the La Porte Church. The Presbyterian Church of La Porte has a full carillon with actual bells hanging in their carillon. The keyboard is up in this tower and accessed by this circular staircase. I went up these stairs several times for one reason or another, and was always surprised by those who did not like to climb these stairs. Something about going around in circles or looking down from a height bothered some. I thought the stairs were sort of fun.
I was reminded as I looked at them of a retreat center I stayed in once in southwest Michigan. The retreat house had been created out of a large old barn and had several rooms scattered high up near the rafters. They were reached by a series of strangely twisting and turning staircases. But if you were more adventurous you could scale the ladders attached to the walls and return to the main floor by means of a fireman’s pole! I thought it was an extraordinary space and fun to explore!
Detrick Bonhoeffer says “Children have open, wideawake eyes, because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery. They are not yet finished with this world; they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do.” I find these words intriguing. Children are so open to the curious and the mysterious. They love to explore, to climb circular staircases and slide down fireman poles. They have not learned yet to avoid the mysterious or the strange or the unknown as adults learn to do.
I think Advent is a good time to explore the mysterious, to welcome things that are strange to us and to admit there is a lot of unknown out there, some of which might merit consideration. The birth of God among us is full of mystery. It is no good pretending we understand it. It might be more productive to gaze in wonder and embrace the unknown.
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