Thought for the Week 1 Dec

 

  from the Minister, Rev Alan Childs

Each week the minister shares a Thought for the Week.

See Previous Thoughts for the Week

 

Jesus is Coming - Look Busy

 


 

Christmas is nearly upon us. Some might say “Yay!” others might groan “Heaven forbid!”

The former might well tell the latter off for being a Scrooge for having a “Ba humbug” attitude and not getting into the spirit of the season. Almost a mild form of shaming people for not being cheerful and positive enough. Which I can fully appreciate as the lights and glitter and tinsel, eating more chocolate or stuffing ourselves or whatever, sounds like a reason to be (at least mildly) excited. I have friends who get utterly besotted with Christmas music and carols and gluhwein when the lights start going up in the shops.

Yet it should be remembered, especially in the dead of winter when people can get real Seasonal Affective Disorder, that many people miss loved ones when family do not come over for the Christmas dinner or you are ashamed for not being able to buy the newest gadgets and lovely stuff for your loved ones. It should also be remembered that the more we consume the more needs to be produced whilst our limited natural resources can produce only so much to keep an unquenchable consumer appetite satisfied.

Allow me to remind us of the bigger picture around this Advent season in the Christian calendar. Advent being the name of the 4 weeks preceding Christmas Day (at least in the Western Church traditions) and advent meaning the Arrival. That is the arrival of the then much expected Messiah/Saviour of the Jews some two millennia ago. They had been waiting for centuries and things were and had been looking rather terrible for the remaining part of the formerly moderately impressive federal nation of Israel. Having been defeated numerous times by various superpowers, having fallen apart politically, having suffered from various cultural and religious schisms internally and having had much of their territory and property lost in the preceding 700 or so years the remnant of people holding out for the Messiah were pretty desperate and many quite tired of waiting for the “promised one”. Many had actually even given up hope of any real change or divine intervention and had taken to either nationalist terrorism to overthrow the current superpower locally, to extreme conservative ascetic withdrawal from society or to synchretistic liberalism.

And yet the people of God had been warned to watch and pray and to wait expectantly for God’s liberator.

So, honestly, although the arrival of the bairn in the barn might eventually have been cause for relief and celebration once his significance became clearer for people to realise it definitely was initially merely amidst people weighed down with a desperate hope for freedom from oppression, hope for a better future and an intervention of God to “put things right”.

Therefore if there is to be a so-called “spirit of the season” it should rather be one of desperation for an improvement of that which is wrong in the world today, a liberation of the oppressed, a homecoming for those who have no home welcoming them in, a breath of fresh air for an earth choking on the fumes of our selfishness and greater respect and compassion in societies currently divided along identity political lines. In waiting for the One to arrive we are similarly looking forward to “the coming of the King” in much the same way as the Palestinian Jews 2000 years ago.

Therefore, instead of carols ringing with bells and triangles and twee lyrics in the run up to Christmas Eve, let me at this early stage in the Advent month suggest some songs that are also looking forward to the coming of the King or the arrival of his Kingdom. These are not carols, they are from a quite different genre. A genre that has a way to verbalise longing and loss, heartfelt desire for a breakthrough to something better than the present pain we might be experiencing in this time of expectant waiting. It is interesting how so many of  the secular songs referring to His coming are blues or bluesy songs sung by artists who express a deep longing for a healing from brokenness or evil. The type of things that would have been desired in the weeks, months, years and even centuries prior to that historical night in Bethlehem.

Let me invite you to listen to some of my favourite alternative Advent songs. Not in a “Ba humbug” sense like Scrooge had, but in a “Hallelujah He has come to save us” sense like Zechariah had. If you feel you would like some antidote to too much tinselised Christmas carolly elevator music, then balance it out with some expectant second Advent music. Feel free to click on any of the song titles to be taken to the Youtube link of that specific song. I list the songs in chronological order.
 

Enjoy.

1928 - Blind Willie Johnson - Jesus a comin’ soon

1979 - Bob Dylan - Slow train coming

1987 - U2 - Where the streets have no name

1990 - Kaiser & Mansfield - We shall see the King  

1994 - The Kry - Jesus a comin’ soon

2002 - Johnny Cash - The man comes around
 

PS: If you would like to suggest any others in this genre feel free to mail me at achilds@churchofscotland.org.uk