Monday, 30 November 2015

Little lights

The candle is one of the most enduring images of Advent and those which adorn the Advent wreath remind us that we wait in anticipation for the coming of Jesus, the light of the world. This year, I've ordered a wreath for our home and in doing so, I was reminded of the song "All the little lights" by Passenger.

The span of human life is often likened to that of a burning candle which will inevitably go out but "All the little lights" has a slight twist on this theme as the singer suggests that "we're born with million of lights shinning in our hearts" which "die along the way" till "we're old and we're cold and lying in the dark" because "they'll all burn out one day". In the course of the song, the source of these lights is revealed to be love, the loss of which also leads to their death, and the singer takes us through few life events which resulted in the extinguishing of his own "little lights". These include lying to his mother about smoking, the occasion his uncle's cancer and unnamed occurrences in the backstreets of Manchester, a bus stop in Edinburgh and an English park.

In many respects, despite the sweet accompaniment by the xylophone, this is a rather sad exploration of the human condition. To be sure, sin and the difficulties of life can extinguish our "little lights" leaving us in darkness and despair but, thankfully, two essential elements are missing from the song's narrative; hope and grace. We are certainly capable of extinguishing the effects of Grace within our souls but, thanks to the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary which demonstrates God's great love for us, this need not be the end. By seeking forgiveness and reconciliation, God is willing to expose us once more to the light of His Grace. Confession is the "little light" lighter par excellence. Likewise, Jesus is the personification of Hope; this is not a hope to cling to despite the odds but rather a relationship of Love capable of healing any wound.

Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Sunday, 29 November 2015

A path in the wilderness

Today is the first day of Advent, the beginning of the new liturgical year and the time during which the Church reminds us of the historical reality of Christ's birth into our space and time. In commemorating the Nativity, we come to understand that the incarnation is an invitation to all to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, sent that we might be freed from our sins, finally to realise our true dignity as sons and daughters of the Father. At the first Christmas, Jesus entered into history and, each year, the liturgy of Advent helps us to renew our resolve to accept and make a place for Christ in our own lives.

Advent is not merely a time of joyous anticipation of Christmas day; properly observed, it is a time of spiritual preparation which will necessarily include penitential observances. The penitential character of Advent is perhaps more imperative than ever given that Christmas is increasingly subsumed beneath layer upon layer of secular largess and sentimentality.

This Advent, I have decided to give up social media and I hope that I will have the discipline to use the time I would otherwise spend trawling through my Twitter feed on prayer and spiritual reading. As a theme, I have decided to reflect upon Isaiah 40:30, "The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God". Though this passage is usually used to allude to the role John the Baptist played in preparing the people of Israel for the coming of the Messiah, I have chosen to focus on the requirement to "make straight" the "paths in the wilderness". I perceive that within myself, I posses (and perhaps have cultivated) spiritual deserts which are not a fitting places to receive Jesus, God made man. I hope that this Advent will help me to identify those aspects of my life which are responsible for these wastelands so that I might pray for the graces to water their arid soils.