Updated: Dec 10, 2018
It was certainly a day for the fire but like so many of us I had to be out and about. One of my more pleasant duties was attending the annual Comrie Silver Circle Christmas party. When I first arrived in this part of the world, it was this band of folk who were among the first to extend a welcome to me and I have tried to go each year.
The organizers certainly put a lot of work into it, and the lively and the quiet had all once again made an effort to come out and put their glad rags on.
Of course, we had a sing-a-long and, as usual, some old numbers brought a tear to the proverbial glass eye. Many of the members of the Circle have seen more than 80 or 90 Christmases and I wondered what quiet thoughts some of them were having.
Sentiment can get a bad name and yet often the hardest of hearts can be softened by a touch of nostalgia felt at the singing of a song or a carol. There are complex reasons why this is so, and why we remember people and events in a way that can affect us so deeply. One of the most famous of all Christmas stories, ‘A Christmas Carol’ relies heavily on the hardness of the heart of Scrooge being moved by the remembering of the feelings of joy and sorrow. Conversion of the heart often starts here.
For the Bible, the heart is the seat not just of emotions but also of thoughts, decisions, fundamental options and relationships. The prophets who appealed to the heart of Israel didn’t sugar coat the truth: the people of God, and especially their rulers (for whom the Israelites had begged, remember) had often gotten it badly wrong. They had paid with their lives and the lives of their children.
The whole literal bloody truth was written in large letters and proclaimed with loud, and sometimes vulgar, shouts.
Yet, just at the moment when the prophets could be at their harshest was also when they could be at their most tender.
The images the prophets used were often to do with clothing, remembering and, yes, you could say sentiment. The clothing references were often about the people getting dressed for action. The impetus and the energy for action came from being reminded that God had not forgotten them and forgave them readily. The sentiment was pure joy.
‘Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress,
put on the beauty of the glory of God forever…
Arise, Jerusalem, stand on the heights
and turn your eyes to the east:
see your sons reassembled from west and east
at the command of the Holy One,
jubilant that God has remembered them.’
Baruch (an excerpt from the First Reading of the Second Sunday of Advent)
Read through the whole passage from this Sunday’s First Reading, if you can, Baruch 5, 1-9.
What dress of sorrow are we wearing? What memories are weighing heavily upon the heart?
Read the word of God slowly and let the remembrance of the Lord’s love warm your heart until you are ready to once again stand up and see what God is offering this Advent.