Most of my inspiration this advent has come from two particular friends:
– Simeon who I know no more than anyone else and what I read in Luke chapter two.
– Geoff Colmer who told me something about the nature of all good musical composition.
Simeon, it strikes me, lived in hopeful imagination. We simply know how others viewed him – ‘a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel.’
He waited … patiently, hopefully, righteously…. but he lived out his life in that place of creative tension. The word was now, but not yet. The tension it created in him was only resolved when he held the tiny Jesus in his arms – ‘you now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised.’
Geoff explained recently how any decent musical composition, (whether it be Humpty, Dumpty, or a Wagner Opera, which were the two examples he used) works with a dynamic built around three elements:
Equilibrium – ‘Humpty, Dumpty sat on a wall’
Tension – ‘Humpty, Dumpty had a great fall’, then (sing it out loud or in your head because it gets worse ….) ‘All the kings horses and all the kings men’.
Resolution – ‘Couldn’t put Humpty together again.’
The thing, which struck me especially, is without the tension, conflict, anxiety music lacks dynamism and movement.
I remember when more involved with counselling individuals and couples, so often hearing how ‘last week’ (ie their counselling session with me) had ‘made things far worse’. My response was always ‘that’s very good’. The thing I discovered was things usually had to get worse before they could get better – the tension had to increase. Only when we dare to confront the reality of submerged emotion and repressed feeling do we invariably get close to the real issues, or the resolution people despair for seeking after in grief.
There is no Christmas story of any eternal significance without an Easter story.
There is no resolution without tension.
There is no resurrection without a cross.
There is no Christmas worth having without an advent of the tension of waiting, the frustration of preparation, the infuriating nature of listening, the pain of unrealised hope.
The tree was my favourite image of those I took driving home yesterday. It was absolutely freezing, just getting out of the car to take the photo. A solitary tree waiting for spring.