Advent Prayers, 11 December
Community Chaplaincy, Spalding
A voice cries out in the wilderness:
‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’
Advent begins with the baptist: John, crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” John is not the most appealing of our biblical characters. He invades our candle-lit sanctuaries and tree-filled homes smelling of camels and crunched-locusts, calling us to repent.
In fact, a lot of ugliness hides behind these Advent stories. We may tell of a world redeemed as we prepare for Christ to come – but these stories are told into the depths of human suffering. We tell them to remind ourselves that one day, one day, God will wipe away every tear. But for now, suffering is still the seedbed for hidden glory.
So, what are we doing with all this tinsel everywhere? Is it right – when so much is wrong in the world – to spend a month wrapping gifts and decorating trees and filling the streets with starry-light?
Behind every Christmas tree, every wrapped gift, every display of lights (yes, even that one: flashing into your bedroom from across the street) – behind every one of our attempts to enchant our world for Christmas, there is a deep and honest longing for beauty.
Beauty is not often addressed as a theological value. We prize compassion and kindness, generosity and forgiveness. Beauty seems too dressy: not for the likes of us. But there is an old old tradition in the church that speaks of the Beauty of God. God’s very essence is beautiful – beauty, truth and goodness go hand in hand. We respond to that beauty in adoration – and in trying to create something of beauty in return.
Alejandro Garcia-Rivira writes: “Human life has a worth and dignity which only Beauty can reveal through the beautiful.” (A. Garcia-Rivira, The Community of the Beautiful, p. 11) We trim our trees and fill our sanctuary with candles to point to this beauty and to claim it as our own. We decorate Christmas cakes and carefully rehearse carols to join in the work of creation. If Beauty is of God’s very nature, then we affirm God’s presence each time we see the beauty in a gnarled hand delicately tying a ribbon, or the flashing eyes of a child let loose with glitter-glue.
Today we pray for Community Chaplaincy in the parish of St John the Baptist. John the Baptist’s beauty was hidden behind odd clothes and strange behaviour. It lies hidden still in the call to repent. Let us pray that through these chaplaincies, the beauty of each person will be revealed.
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