Rector's Reflections - 8 December

Rector's Reflections

Friday 8th November 2023

A Favourite Advent Hymn

Yesterday, we started our consideration of the third verse of the Advent hymn, “Creator of the stars of night”.  We looked at the challenging New Testament image which pictures Jesus as the “Bridegroom” of the “Bride”. But this is not the only challenging image to be found in this verse.

The second line of the 3rd verse tells us that Jesus came “As drew the world to evening-tide”.  In other words, the point in time when Jesus was born, which is commonly calculated to have been in or around 4 BC,  is significant. It must have been  chosen by God for a reason- but what was the reason?  Why did n’t God choose to be born as a human being at some earlier period in human history, or perhaps at some later date? What was so special about a time in or about 4 BC? One theory is that God wanted the good news to spread easily and quickly , and the transport networks of the Roman Empire were ideal for this purpose. Another theory is that God wanted human beings to have had the time to explore deep questions about truth from a philosophical , theological and scientific point of view. God needed to wait until the Ancient Greeks had made their contribution to western civilisation, and  the spiritual and ethical insights of the Jewish people had come to full maturity.  But these are merely some of the theories used to explain why God  decided to take human flesh in or around 4 BC. They certainly give us plenty to thing about.

The author of our hymn added another thought. He seems to have been exploring the idea that the history of humanity can be divided into four successive stages. First, there is the Dawn- when everything is wonderful and full of hope; then there are the Hours of Day-light, when things seem ok, but lacking in the freshness and excitement of Dawn; and then the light begins to fail, and the Evening draws on – there is a sense of sadness and tiredness as the working day is drawing to a close; and finally, there is Night, when nothing much happens, and everything is wrapped in darkness. Our hymn imagines that years around the birth of Jesus were a time when the light was beginning to fail, and evening was drawing near.  It was time of tiredness and pessimism. People needed light to get them through the coming Night – so God sent his Son to shine as a light, a light to bring hope and joy. I wonder what you think : did Jesus come when He did in order to prepare human beings for a Time of Darkness that lay ahead? Might such a Time of Darkness still be with us today?

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