I propose a simple advent. For each week, I will offer one song and one image here on the Messy Table. May these be useful to you in this season of waiting.
The Song: Jeremiah 33
Jeremiah sings as Nebuchadnezzar’s armies approach. The people of Jerusalem are used to his songs. And they are used to dismissing them. Jeremiah is so often gloomy that he had been jailed to keep him quiet. But now, with the enemy at the gate, he sings of God’s good promises and hope on the horizon. This is how our Advent begins.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
We begin with hope. This isn’t hope that things can return to normal again for Jerusalem. The threat is too great. Jerusalem will fall and the surrounding towns and villages will be razed. Jeremiah’s hope, instead, is for complete renewal. New life from a dead stump. So, not rose-coloured glasses hope, but gutsy the-doors -are-crashing-in-and-I’m-going-to-sing hope. Grounded-in-God’s-action hope. It’s a real hope for renewal and righteousness. And none of this is Jeremiah’s idea – this restoration is the fulfilment of promises God has already made to the people. That’s why the prophet is singing. It is as if in this moment of threat he can finally see clearly.The restoring righteousness he sings of is a glimpse of the upside-down kingdom that will come. It is because God will renew Jerusalem, that Jeremiah can sing in the moment of her destruction. The coming future shapes his present completely.
The image is of the oldest castle doors in Europe. Eight hundred years or so. Good, strong oak. If we can trust the dendrochronologists, these date back to somewhere between 1159 and 1189. Until the 1960s, they were the main doors for Chepstow Castle in Wales. Now they hang in an exhibit inside the castle. They are remarkable from a woodworking perspective as well as an historical one. Built using techniques adapted from ancient boat building, their lattice work is one of the earliest examples of mortice and tenon joints in the UK. These are strong, innovative, beautiful doors.
This is my image for hope.
In an uncertain world, we hope for safety and security, so we build strong doors. But we also hope for welcome, so we learn to open those doors to those who seek refuge. I think about the people Andrew Faiz met on the road in Hungary “in the middle of nowhere, between their past and their future”. I think about Christ on all the roads he travelled – to Bethlehem, to Egypt, to Jerusalem, to Emmaus. – and all those who welcomed him and walked with him. I think about those who have welcomed me and my family into new and foreign spaces.
In these Advent days, we wait and we hope to learn again how to trust in the promises of God. For our world and for our own hearts. Old, ancient wood will bring forth new growth. Old paths lead to new places. All things will be made new.