Songs in the Wasteland: the Now and Not Yet

In the final post of our Celtic Advent blog series ‘Songs in the Wasteland’, Naomi Black shares some reflections from her personal journey through Advent in the midst of this strange and difficult time.

As I’ve journeyed through this Advent season, I’ve been reading every day about why Jesus came. Each day has brought a different truth, a different declaration: he came to bring light to the world, he came to bless the nations, he came to fulfil the law, he came to do what Adam could not… the list goes on. Each day as I’ve read, I’ve marvelled, and my heart has expanded with thanks and reassurance at what this Christ child came for. In a season of great uncertainty, when plans can change at a moment’s notice and it seems that very little can be relied upon, it has helped me every day to read something steady.

More and more this year my heart has been drawn to the promise of eternity with Jesus. Songs that speak of ‘that day’ make my eyes smart with tears, Scriptures that promise an end to pain and sorrow and suffering fill my heart with yearning. I know that eternity has been placed in our hearts, it shouldn’t surprise me as a believer to long for such things. Yet I also know that the reason I long for it more now is because all around me I see that pain and sorrow and sadness of the ‘not yet’, and it breaks my heart. So, as I read these declarations and truths about Jesus every day, there was one that stood out more than I was expecting – it certainly doesn’t feel very Christmassy! It was this: Jesus came to defeat the enemy.

It reminded me of a piece I’ve sung several times, a particular movement from Benjamin Britten’s ‘A Ceremony of Carols’. Most of the eleven movements in this piece are beautiful to listen to, awash of festive choral magic – complex, yes, but beautiful. Not so with the movement I was remembering, ‘This Little Babe’. Its tone is darker, its tempo is rapid, but it is its text that sets it apart from the rest. It depicts a battle between the enemy and this Christ child; the strangeness of a helpless babe being powerful enough to defeat a raging enemy. It’s opening line sets the scene and my heart is fortified every time I remember it: “this little babe, so few days old, is come to rifle Satan’s fold, all hell doth at his presence quake though he himself for cold doth shake…“.

Jesus came to defeat the enemy. This is a vital truth to hold on to this Advent. Satan’s fold has indeed been well and truly rifled by the power of Jesus Christ and hell does indeed tremble at his name. In other words, the days of injustice, of pain, of deep sorrow, of hunger and of need, are numbered. Because Jesus came to defeat the enemy, and he comes good on his word – always. I think that this Advent, my ‘song in the wasteland’ is to remind my heart that it won’t always be this way. One day the ‘not yet’ will be fulfilled completely. But in the here and now there is still hope – because the Kingdom is also ‘now’ and Jesus is foiling the works of the enemy still. This Advent, this Christmas, celebrate the power wrought through the Incarnation and speak the powerful name of Jesus into the places of darkness and distress, standing in the truth that Jesus came to defeat the enemy.

Naomi is from Northern Ireland but now calls Edinburgh home, where she is part of the Central Church family and staff team. She loves to pray and to help other people pray as well. She also teaches singing and has a particular fondness for dogs and excellent cups of tea.

Songs In The Wasteland: Hope

Daniel Ferguson continues our Advent series ‘Songs in the Wasteland’, sharing some reflections from his journey through this year and his struggle with mental health.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel

This year has been like no other. It feels like everyone has struggled along the way. Personally I have felt the rollercoaster of emotions like so many others have.

I’ve felt great Joy. We had the joy of our son Ezra being born! He is a gift, utterly beautiful and has filled us with even more love than we thought possible. I’ve felt tired. I know that a newborn will always bring a sense of tiredness, but it’s gone further than simply that. I’ve felt fatigued as this year has gone on, felt in so many ways ‘tired’ of the fact every day and week has been so familiar. I’ve felt a captive in many ways. A captive of this crisis, a captive of my own mind, a captive of 2020.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been hopeful and joyful moments along the way, but I know I’m not the only one who has felt low at moments, a captive of the circumstances we find ourselves in, and honestly – I’ve felt far from God at times.

I suffer from depression and this year certainly hasn’t helped with that. Yet, in the midst of the darkness of my mind and the darkness of this year – is there hope?

I truly believe there is. I’m not sure where I would be without this hope and I am so thankful that I do have hope. My hope is found in Emmanuel. My hope is found in Jesus.

Emmanuel means “God with us” and that’s where I have found my hope. I have found hope in the fact that God is NOT distant, far removed and untouchable. In fact, he is the opposite. He is close, he is near, he is present and he is WITH US. This is my hope. Life has been a struggle this year and I wonder if it has been for you too? This hope in Jesus doesn’t mean everything suddenly becomes perfect in my life or yours. However, it does mean that we are not alone – there is someone there to lift us when we fall, there is someone there to restore our broken hearts, there is someone to breathe fresh life into our tired bodies and fresh hope into our weary minds. This is what Jesus brings to me and I know he wants to bring this to you.

Like this famous carol says, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.”
This is a prayer for us this year. We may have felt captive, we may have felt imprisoned in our circumstances and perhaps even in our minds, but there is hope and that hope is found in Emmanuel – Jesus.

Daniel is married to Becky and they have two kids – Zoe & Ezra. They live in Westhill, Aberdeenshire, where Daniel is the Youth Pastor at Westhill Community Church. Daniel is also the founder of THERE IS HOPE – a mental health awareness movement; and of JOYFUL – a musical vehicle to ignite hope & joy in a world of fear & pain.

Songs in the Wasteland: With

University student Sam Rae continues our Celtic Advent blog series ‘Songs in the Wasteland’ with some reflections from his journey through this strange year.
It has been a difficult year for us all and it has been particularly hard for our students. So we are delighted to have a student contributing to this blog!

I have spent the last few hours, accompanied by a collection of hot drinks, trying to start this blog.

In a season of so much unpredictability and volatility, it is hard to pen down anything absolute, any lesson completely rounded off, any proverb fully developed. The truth is, each week recently has brought a different challenge or wrestle. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed “I just don’t know, Lord” as much.

Maybe you feel the same?

Caught between a sea of uncertainty and an army of responsibilities, I feel myself echoing the exclamation of “why have you brought me here!” daily.

And yet in the middle, on the very ground we are sitting or standing on right this second, is an invitation. A doorway into dependency. An opportunity to lift our heads and whisper (or scream), “we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You”.

Currently we are journeying through Advent, the season of waiting in hope for Jesus.

Jesus. Who did not stay at arms length, but instead made himself one with the authentic reality we find ourselves in now.

Jesus. Who does not leave us sinking on our own, but instead reaches out and draws us into new life with himself.

Jesus. The light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not, and will not, ever overcome Him.

Jesus, our King and friend. Able to comfort us and do the immeasurably more.

Oh, how quick am I to try doing it on my own, stumbling into worry as situations wander beyond my control! When Jesus – God in our midst – promises to be with me always.

Maybe this is our way of entering into worship today? Opening our hands of the troubles, doubt and fears we are carrying, and releasing these into the love scarred palms of The One that sculpted the very earth we are standing on now.

“Joyful, joyful, we adore You,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before You,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Our God is here with us
Emmanuel, Our God is still with us.”

Sam is currently studying music in Edinburgh and is a part of the Central Church family where he serves on the worship team. He has a heart to see God’s people authentically engage with Him and the overflow that comes in and through those times. His home is Ayrshire, which has stunning sunsets and some of his amazing family!

*Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
Written by Henry Van Dyke

Songs in the Wasteland: Came

This week we wanted to share something a little bit different as part of our Advent series ‘Songs in the Wasteland’.
More friends from around Scotland will be sharing their reflections with us in the coming weeks but for now, enjoy and reflect on this moving poem by the author of
‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Madeleine L’Engle.
It is taken from her book ‘The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle’
May it inspire a song deep within you

First Coming
Madeleine L’Engle

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!