Every year that I have blogged I have tried to do something with Advent. I grew up in a Christian tradition that was somewhat detached from the traditional Church Calendar – even as it pointed me resolutely towards Jesus and wonderfully instilled a love of Scripture into both my heart and my mind. I’m glad to have grown up a Reformed Baptist – and those two terms continue to define and shape my spirituality and theology. Why do I say that, with talk of Advent? I say it because of King Jesus, whose Birth the season of Advent anticipates, and whose wonderful Incarnation Christmas celebrates. The Christian life is defined by and oriented around Jesus. As a result of the influence of the traditions, movements, hermeneutical perspectives and educational opportunities I have been afforded, I find myself in the place of being both willing and able to celebrate Advent this year. The publisher for whom I work is focusing on Joy this Christmas, building their Advent Campaign on Social Media around the Advent Book ‘Songs for a Saviours Birth‘.
I really rather like this book. Beautifully produced, nicely printed, expertly edited, and drawing the orthodox believers of Evangelicalism back to the wonderful church tradition of Advent. William Philip, the minister of The Tron Church in Glasgow (a congregation that was forced away from the Church of Scotland over the stance shifting on gay relationships, despite a commitment to peaceful separation and great financial investment) has penned a book that recognises the cultural reality of Christmas as a time for songs and singing, by bringing that into touch with the ultimate, Gospel, reality that these songs should be about the Saviour’s Birth.
This post is not a book review. You should expect that to come later.
This post is not an advert. I write that sort of thing on work’s dime and time, not my own.
This post is a challenge to celebrate Advent. To sing songs ahead of the coming of the King.
William Philip, in Songs for a Saviour’s Birth, beautifully blends the pastoral and the theological in a way that focuses ultimately on Jesus. Theological, in that by writing this book and publishing it when he did, William is saying something profound about the entrance of God into History, and the need for followers of Jesus today to not so contextualise the Gospel that we ignore the radical reality and life-shattering claims that shape it. Pastoral, in that this is a book that applies the beautiful and peculiar glories of Scripture to the real concerns and needs of followers of Jesus today. This book is about Joy, as IVP’s blog post linked to above recognises, but this is not some flippant joy in a world where all is well. This is real joy. Joy for the hearers, joy for the humble, joy for the helpless, joy for the heavens, and joy for the hopeful. This is a book about joy because that is what the Saviour’s birth offers.
A long time ago, several Christmases back, my dad (Whom I haven’t written about much, because I don’t think he’d appreciate it, and his sacrifices and love are before and for Jesus, not for anyone else) introduced me to one of his favourite bands. The Swingle Singers. Some people whom I love very much and are part of my life now detest the way that they make music. But I digress. Advent is a time of listening, a time of praying, a time of waiting and a time of preparing. The old carol ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ does this well. My friend Andy Walton shared a list of ten great versions of the carol over at Christian Today, an online Christian news site.
The best version, in my opinion, was that by the Swingle Singers:
I love the reality of the video. The hints of light, of colour, of hope and joy. I love the honesty of the black and white, yet the implied ambiguity of the grey-ness of life, which the light cuts through. The Swingle Singers, and an un-named animator, have really captured the reality of Advent in our world.
And that is why I’m looking forward to singing songs about, ahead of, and to celebrate, my Saviour’s Birth. I’ll be doing that with the saints gathered at our local church, but I’m also looking forward to doing it at HTB, with my wife’s work, this weekend.
You might hear more from me about Advent. You might not. But I hope you’ll pray an old Advent prayer with me: