Advent Sunday Devotional Candle

On Advent Sunday (the start of the Christian year) we light the first candle of the Advent wreath. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning arrival or coming. The season of Advent is the first period of reflection in the Christian year, the second being Lent. Advent is a time for preparing for Christ’s second coming, even as we remember and celebrate his first coming at Christmas.

There are several themes related to this traditional wreath, with a variety of colours that sometimes incorporate purple and pink candles. For my four Advent Sunday posts (this and the following three Sundays) I’m sticking with red, but switching to white, purple and pink on Christmas Day. Similarly, the themes associated with each candle have variations and different traditions.

The first candle symbolises HOPE and is known as the Prophet’s Candle. The prophets of the Old Testament waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7

Advent Sunday is an opportunity to recall the hope we have in Christ. God told Abraham that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed, because he trusted and put his hope in God. The Old Testament spoke of the coming of Christ, of how a Saviour would be born, a king in the line of King David. He would rule the world wisely and bless all the nations. We also believe in God’s promise to send Jesus again to this world to establish his kingdom upon the earth.

Hope is like a light shining in a dark place. As we reflect on the light from this candle, we celebrate the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

Prayer: God of Abraham, the Patriarchs and Prophets of old, you are our Father too. Your love is revealed to us in Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Son of David. Help us in preparing to celebrate his birth, to make our hearts ready and to place our hope in you. Help us today and every day to worship you, to hear your word, and to do your will by sharing your hope with others. We ask it in the name of the one who was born in Bethlehem. Amen.

Sonnet 29 (William Shakespeare)

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Shore (Fleet Foxes)

It has to be said, that prior to the release their fourth album (at the autumnal equinox on 22 September 2020 after being announced only one day in advance) I hadn’t really paid much attention to Fleet Foxes, an American folk band.

Singer/songwriter Robin Pecknold…wanted the album to exist in a liminal space outside of time, inhabiting both the future and the past, accessing something spiritual or personal that is untouchable by whatever the state of the world may be at a given moment, whatever our season.

It’s a musically adventurous album that’s life affirming, warm and full of grace; one that faces life’s realities yet comes across as a breath of fresh air. It’s one of my favourites of 2020.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Favourite Albums 2020

My musical listening during 2020 has been somewhat haphazard, mainly because of circumstances (coronavirus, retirement, young children, and moving to a new house) as well as a desire to listen to comforting old and established favourites.

Similarly, my choices this year reflect the unique nature of 2020. a year unlike any other for all of us. Indeed, many are comforting, meditative, and reflective.

This year I’m going to be doing things a little differently, I’ll post my favourite albums of the year individually between now and the end of the year. I’ll choose my top album(s) in the last week of December.

It’s obvious, of course, that I can never listen to all the albums released each year, but I’ve listened to less than my usual in 2020.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here, or individually below. Note: Some albums are not linked to a post yet.

Myopia (Agnes Obel)

break_fold (break_fold)

Coast (Cousin Silas)

Coloured Fragments (Cousin Silas)

Electric Portraits (Cousin Silas)

Honey For Wounds (Ego Ella May)

Hey Clockface (Elvis Costello)

Vestibule (Fictions and Poetics)

Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Fiona Apple)

Shore (Fleet Foxes)

1000 Hands: Chapter One (Jon Anderson)

Inner Song (Kelly Lee Owens)

Fragility (Kevin Buckland)

Spook the Herd (Lanterns on the Lake)

Song for Our Daughter (Laura Marling)

Eine Phase des Übergangs (Martin Neuhold)

Serpentine Prison (Matt Berninger)

Dark Matter (Moses Boyd)

Moonlight in October (Puppy Bordiga)

A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip (Sparks)

You can see the albums that just missed out here.

This post is a work in progress and subject to change.

Albums that missed out in 2020

You can see my favourite albums of 2020 here, these are the ones that just missed out for a variety of reasons. They’re all good, but I had to draw the line somewhere.

Rough and Rowdy Ways (Bob Dylan)

Shiver (Jónsi)

S&M2 (Metallica & San Francisco Symphony)

Pick Me Up Off the Floor (Norah Jones)

Digging Deep: Subterranea (Robert Plant)

Mixing Colours (Roger Eno & Brian Eno)

Winnow (Simeon Walker)

Tea for the Tillerman² (Yusuf/Cat Stevens)

This post is a work in progress and subject to change.

Maradona muerto a los 60 años

Recuerdo bien el infame gol de ‘Mano de Dios’ en el partido de la Copa del Mundo de 1986 y mi fuerte sentimiento de injusticia en ese momento. Sí, hizo trampa, pero el segundo gol contra Inglaterra en 1986 fue uno de los mejores. Diego Maradona fue mucho más que la ‘Mano de Dios’. Fue uno de los mejores futbolistas de la historia que tuvo que afrontar muchos problemas en su vida personal. Este inglés lo ha perdonado.

Dark Matter (Moses Boyd)

Dark Matter by Moses Boyd is one of a number of albums I’ve discovered this year because they were nominated for the Mercury Prize 2020.

Moses Boyd is a British jazz drummer, composer, record producer, bandleader and radio host. This debut solo album is a wonderful jazz album, one that’s fused with so many other genres, and described as a ‘melting-pot of genres and styles’. It’s one of my favourites of 2020.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip (Sparks)

Sparks have been around since 1967, but I first came across them in 1974 when I heard their most well-known song, This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us. It was the opening track on their third album, Kimono My House.

A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip is their twenty-fourth studio album, and it’s one of my favourite albums of 2020. Unusually for Sparks it does contain the F*** word, especially in the title of one of the songs, a powerful environmental plea.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

All Saints’ Day to Advent Sunday

I share some thoughts and prayers from the Church of England website for my final Sunday devotional of the Christian year, one which ends with the Feast of Christ the King. I hope and pray this will be helpful in your preparation for the season of Advent and Christmas.

All Saints’ Day and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed on All Souls’ Day both celebrate this mutual belonging. All Saints’ Day celebrates men and women in whose lives the Church as a whole has seen the grace of God powerfully at work. It is an opportunity to give thanks for that grace, and for the wonderful ends to which it shapes a human life; it is a time to be encouraged by the example of the saints and to recall that sanctity may grow in the ordinary circumstances, as well as the extraordinary crises, of human living. The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed celebrates the saints in a more local and intimate key. It allows us to remember with thanksgiving before God those whom we have known more directly: those who gave us life, or who nurtured us in faith.

Redemption is a work of God’s grace; it is God who redeems us in Christ and there is nothing to be done beyond what Christ has done. But we still wait for the final consummation of God’s new creation in Christ; those who are Christ’s, whether or not they have passed through death, are joined in prayer that God’s kingdom will be revealed finally and in all its fullness. We also sense that it is a fearful thing to come before the unutterable goodness and holiness of God, even for those who are redeemed in Christ; that it is searing as well as life-giving to experience God’s mercy; and this instinct also is expressed in the liturgy of All Souls’ Day.

Remembrance Sunday goes on to explore the theme of memory, both corporate and individual, as we confront issues of war and peace, loss and self-gift, memory and forgetting.

The annual cycle of the Church’s year now ends with the Feast of Christ the King. The year that begins with the hope of the coming Messiah ends with the proclamation of his universal sovereignty. The ascension of Christ has revealed him to be Lord of earth and heaven, and final judgement is one of his proper kingly purposes. The Feast of Christ the King returns us to the Advent theme of judgement, with which the cycle once more begins.

We pray for the coming of God’s kingdom.

You sent your Son to bring good news to the poor,
sight to the blind,
freedom to captives
and salvation to your people:
anoint us with your Spirit;
rouse us to work in his name.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.

Send us to bring help to the poor
and freedom to the oppressed.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.

Send us to tell the world
the good news of your healing love.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.

Send us to those who mourn,
to bring joy and gladness instead of grief.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.

Send us to proclaim that the time is here
for you to save your people.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.

Lord of the Church,
hear our prayer,
and make us one in mind and heart
to serve you in Christ our Lord. Amen.

Coronavirus Emotions and Feelings

Last month (October 2020) I posted this on Facebook: Coronavirus frustration, tension and weariness seems to be a thing (or rather three things that are linked) right now. Please feel free to share your experiences, which I’ll possibly compile into an anonymised blog post. It might be cathartic. There’s a lot going on in everyone’s lives at the moment.

I received a number of replies, but the first one (not in response to my invitation) is particularly helpful and is shared with permission. I have simply removed one sentence (and part of another) to make it totally anonymous.

I don’t usually share how I’m feeling, especially here on Facebook, I normally just share the good stuff and keep the rest to myself, part and parcel of being an introvert I guess. […..] For sometime now, I’ve recognised that I’m not struggling, that’s not the right word to use, I’m simply overwhelmed with everything that is happening at present, you know when you reach saturation point? Well that’s me. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to watch the news (not constantly) without just wanting to close my eyes and hope and pray that this pandemic will simply disappear, puff, and it’s gone, but it won’t, will it. I desperately try and stay optimistic, and yes I know that one day, all this will be over, we will pull through. I think what I’m trying to say, is that I recognise that at the moment, I know it’s okay, to not be okay, and I’m not! I’m finding that at times I am anxious, fearful, trying to live in hope, but failing miserably! I know that everyone is struggling, some days for me are better than others, I wasn’t going to do this, but I feel I have to, for the sake of my own mental health. [….. I fear it’s only going to get worse.] I just feel, that at times, sharing how we really feel, when it’s safe to do so, is so important as we move forward during this time. I am not wanting or needing attention, that is not my intention, I just want to share, how I’m really feeling without any stigma or judgement.

Here are the replies I received in response to my invitation, each in a separate paragraph. They are posted in full and unedited.

  • I think lots of uncertainty causes the most issues with me and being away from all family for 5+ weeks now!
  • I live alone and I work alone (from home). I’ve been pretty much isolating since the start in February, mainly because both my parents were ill and moved into separate care homes and I wanted to be virus free in case I got the chance to visit them. I saw my dad in July at mums funeral, then last week dad died. It’s not the virus that bothers me, as much as the people who are dying alone and the families that are unable to see the people they love. My dad was so much in love with mum and hadn’t seen her since Valentine’s Day. If he wanted to talk about mum, if he wanted to share memories, if he wanted to be comforted it had to be done with a stranger in a care home and not by his family. It’s the craziness of the rules why you can buy vodka in Tesco’s but a child’s winter coat is taped off as non essential. It’s the pubs opening and closing suddenly at 10pm then the complaints that people are all leaving the pub at the same time and too drunk to socially distance. I’m fed up of the ****** four walls but there’s no escape. I’m fed up of people complaining that some stranger in the supermarket didn’t wear a face mask, I’m fed up of others complaining that it’s a hoax. I’m just fed up of the endless nothingless of it all.
  • We have been in strict lockdown for about 3 months here in Melbourne – this included curfews, not being allowed to leave your home except to work (if deemed an essential worker), exercise (for 1-2 hours a day depending on what month it was) or shop for essential items (and only one person from the household once a day). I’m not going to say it was easy, it truly wasn’t. I’ve been in relative isolation since March 17 as I have chronic health conditions and my doctors felt it was best, but knowing that even if I wanted to bend the rules I couldn’t made feel harder than it was. Having said that, every day watching the numbers tumble from 700+ positive tests daily to double digits to single digits to two days of 0 positive tests (and our testing numbers have still been quite high) actually gave me genuine joy. Knowing that we are protecting our health system and the vulnerable made it seem worth it. Today I went out for about an hour to grab some firewood and get our weekly shop because finally the restrictions are lifted (though we still can’t go outside our 25km radius of home, and I can’t see my family because they live in regional Victoria which has its borders closed to us suburban Victorians and city folk!) and to be honest, I was actually a little scared. I don’t want the numbers to go up again because people flaunt their new “freedom”, as I’m worried that will mean that we can’t see family for Christmas! I know things will normalise into whatever CoVid normal is in the future but right now it still feels a bit surreal. I feel blessed to still have my health (though I did spend 8 days in a hospital without having any visitors due to the rules during lockdown) and I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home, but I’m sad I haven’t met my 8 week old niece, and I’m sad I can’t see my parents, sister and other nieces. Overall though, I’m just thankful for the life I have, for a warm and safe home, for technology to keep in touch with family and friends and for the ability to continue to work and earn a living when so many others have lost their jobs.
  • I came home from my after work walk yesterday and began crying uncontrollably as I approached and entered my home. I turned to tiktok, and even though I spent 2 hours on it instead of eating dinner, I was super happy! It makes me feel more connected to other humans than any other online platform. I think it’s because we enter one another’s homes and lives in a unique way there. And it’s silly as all get out too!

You might like to add your responses in the comments.