Rosemary Booth, our Worship Convenor, was looking for a suitable hymn for Advent that reflected local context. Not being able to find one, she wrote the following to be sung to the tune of “There’s A Light Upon The Mountains” (Together in Song #276).
Reflecting the habitat of Perth’s coastal plains, it is free for use and adaptation:
WA Christmas Tree
Now the early morning sunlight shows the deep blue of the sea;
It’s inviting us to dip our toes or get wet to the knee.
But it’s not the cool breeze blowing that prevents our daily swim,
But the faint elusive sound of a profound and ancient hymn.
There’s a Christmas tree a-glowing near the track down to the sea,
And its burning golden bloom now shines with great intensity.
But it’s not the fiery branches nor the wind along the track,
But a song of hope and peace that tells that we cannot turn back.
There’s a jacaranda flowering in the garden next to me,
And a gust of wind is rippling to create a purple sea.
But it’s not the wind that’s ruffling our impatient longing hearts;
It’s the promised new creation and the love that it imparts.
For it’s not the sea we long for, not the bush that we desire,
Not the flowers that we watch for, but the light that can inspire.
For Emmanuel is coming as a precious baby boy.
Yes! The Prince of Peace is coming! Let’s sing out a song of joy!
Words: Rosemary Booth (alt. D Cant and K Durbridge)
Joy is much, much more than unbridled happiness.
Joy is the underlying condition of deep perspective, a profound perception that, in spite of present suffering, all is well, and all shall be well. Such a stance is beyond gritted teeth stoicism against trying odds; it finds its centre in a sacred, peaceful place flowing with divine, celebratory energy.
See this in this morning’s gospel testimony of John the Baptist’s witness to the Logos, the light that had come into the world. John had tough work before him, and he would literally lose his head over it. Nevertheless, his words and actions spring from pure joy.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight”
Isaiah’s oracle is how Mark’s Gospel begins – straight into a face off with the powers of the land. Isaiah’s prophecy finds flesh with the arrival of John the Baptist. He calls the people out of their day to day stupor – out into the wilderness to face the challenge of renewal of heart and mind and a new beginning. In this way, they prepare for the coming of One who will unite them into a new way of community where the Hebrew gift of shalom can find full expression.
No more dissemblance from political ivory towers, no more cheating, no more cruelty, no more cheap bartering with human lives, no more stingy self-interest stealing our life-force. Instead, a repentance of loving-kindness and generous hospitality for the sake of one another and the stranger in our midst points to a promised source of abundant life.
The First Sunday in Advent also marks the beginning of a year’s cycle of Gospel readings focused on Mark. The season of Advent and Mark’s Gospel go well together – a seemingly odd statement perhaps, as nothing of the story of Jesus’ birth is found in Mark’s rendition. In fact, Mark’s narrative seems as far away from Christmas as one can possibly get – a dark, terse, dramatic narrative bearing an enigma called “the messianic secret.” Yet it is perfect for Advent, a season that declares something hopeful on the horizon when everything seems to say otherwise. Mark’s original audience faced looming annihilation – a real possibility under Nero’s persecution (just as today’s Christian communities throughout the Levant and other locations are forced to endure a religious ethnic cleansing). Mark’s gospel is about faithfulness and trust under duress – and Mark’s voice comes from the midst of the experience.
Get ready for a year of riding the storm with Mark!
Jesus separating people at the Last Judgement, by Fra Angelico, 1432-1435.
This one word stands out at the peak and culmination of this year’s journey with Matthew’s Gospel. Over the course of the year, beginning last Advent, we have climbed Matthew’s mountain, celebrated with Matthew’s traumatised and exiled Jewish community the invitation to see Jesus as the new Moses who completes the Torah, all that is in the Law and the Prophets. More than that, Jesus calls out a community to live courageously serving, defiantly loving, calling for a world to be built on the principles of chesed (mercy) and shalom (a just peace).
Alexander Shaia (who will be visiting Perth in March) invites us to consider Matthew’s Gospel, as a first path of awareness, particularly when confronted with change that may well hide a divine summons to fuller living. We move through shock, unease and unsettledness to pronounce a final “Yes!”
The Gospel of Matthew provided the fledgling church with a handbook drawn on Hebrew heritage but recasting old and wise ways for a newly expanded world opened by the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who says “Lo, I am with you… to the end of the age.”
Where is he to be found? Today’s climactic parable of the separation of sheep and goats tells us in one word – “Inasmuch!” Inasmuch as you regarded and served with dignity the most humble person, you did the same for Jesus. This is the summit of the mountain.
Robert Brittain’s “24 Images of John’s Apocalypse” was commissioned and blessed at a special worship service at the Wembley Downs Church of Christ this morning. Emeritus Professor Reverend William Loader was present to address the gathering on the background and relevance of the book as a “text of hope.”
Rosemary Hunter, lecturer in art history, spoke of the critical elements of imagination, emotion and order that were consistently portrayed through Mr Brittain’s work, emphasising a positive message of ultimate reconciliation.