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.