Thought for the month
Advent is not a count-down to Christmas but a build-up towards it. It’s a time to reflect each day on the coming of God’s love into our world through the birth of Jesus, and to find out more about how that love can change each of our lives. “This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11)
“Love came down at Christmas” sums it up very well. That’s the first line of a well-known poem by Christina Rossetti, and it’s also the title of a new book by Sinclair B. Ferguson, with daily readings throughout Advent which explore “love” by looking at the famous Bible chapter 1 Corinthians 13.
Throughout December, the daily blog on the website of one of your webmaster’s friends, Rev Geoff Bland, will do the same thing, picking up some of the thoughts from that book, and you’re invited to join us as together we prepare for Christmas by reflecting on what it means that “Love came down”. You can read the blog at this link, where you can also sign up for a daily email.
Mary Kidd ‘said it with flowers’, we sang it in three hymns from the Hymns of Peace and Remembrance, a collection written to mark the centenary of Armistice Day and the end of the First World War, and we heard some of the pieces from the Centena Collection, each inspired by and based on the life of a real individual who experienced the First World War.
And at the end of last night’s moving Sunday@Six service we prayed for peace: “Father in heaven, form in us the likeness of your Son and deepen his life within us. Send us as witnesses of gospel joy into a world of fragile peace and broken promises. Touch all hearts with your love so we may, in turn, love each other. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
It’s true of any biblical passage that the only way to understand a biblical extract is to do so sitting down on a three-legged stool in which
- one leg is the biblical text
- a second leg is the context in which the story happens
- and the third leg is made up of all the co-texts, the other things that are said or happen around the particular passage.
Because it’s only when we bring all three legs of that stool together that the full meaning of the biblical passage emerges.
To put it another way, when we ignore one of the three legs, when we only read the text and ignore the context, when we cherry-pick a text as if it had no co-texts, then we can be sure that our reading will be unsteady, our interpretation wobbly and our take on the passage likely to come crashing down.
To find out what happened yesterday when Michael Paterson invited us to sit on the interpreter’s three-legged stool to consider Mark 10.2–16, and the reason for our hymn-line title, you’ll have to go to this link!
Acknowledgement: our three-legged stool comes from a Christward Collective blog.