Dear God, in a world which is so full of beauty and pain, loveliness and cruelty we hold onto your transcendent presence at times with the mere brush of our fingertips.  Life is so fickle, here today – gone tomorrow and the secular narrative conveys to us that that’s it – but in our brutal and stark vanishing somehow we know deep down that there remains a faint scent – a scent so sweet and so pure and so true and so hopeful.  Faith remembers and acknowledges this scent – it allows it space, offers it reverence and is even foolish enough to embrace it, kneel before it and kiss it.  It is the scent which Mary experienced when the angel told her she would bear the hope of the world.  It is the scent which made Joseph brave enough to stay with Mary despite the shame.  It is the scent which made wise men kneel like fools at the manger.  It is the scent which strengthened Jesus as he ministered to the poor, outcasts and despised.  It is the scent which arose like gentle candle smoke from rusty nails on his bleeding hands.  It’s aroma forever surrounds us in love and hope and peace and tells us not to despair at what life throws at us because “Emmanuel – our God is with us”.  As we approach this First Sunday of Advent may we all stop for a moment and take some time to inhale this ethereal, transcendent, faintest of scents.  For no matter how unlikely it seems – God is with us, we are loved unconditionally and our lives are eternal, Amen.