• John Woods

Evermore



2020 is rapidly drawing to a close.


What an odd year it has been. A heightened level of uncertainty personally, socially, politically, economically and spiritually. No nation has been untouched by all of this, and no individual has been left without some Coronavirus story to tell.


How was 2020 for you?


How have you managed to stay sane through two or more lockdowns? Amidst some predictable human responses that have made life more difficult for everybody there have been moments of grace that have put a smile on our faces.


Seeing neighbours on doorsteps clapping the NHS week after week. People taking time out to say hello or do the shopping for a vulnerable neighbour. Or perhaps an unexpected text, email or real letter coming to us.

2020 is rapidly drawing to a close.


What an odd year it has been. A heightened level of uncertainty personally, socially, politically, economically and spiritually. No nation has been untouched by all of this, and no individual has been left without some Coronavirus story to tell.


How was 2020 for you?


How have you managed to stay sane through two or more lockdowns? Amidst some predictable human responses that have made life more difficult for everybody there have been moments of grace that have put a smile on our faces.


Seeing neighbours on doorsteps clapping the NHS week after week. People taking time out to say hello or do the shopping for a vulnerable neighbour. Or perhaps an unexpected text, email or real letter coming to us.This Sunday I was caught off guard by a lovely video of singers and musicians from our church singing one of my favourite contemporary Christmas songs: What kind of Throne?


I guess it was the combination in this beautifully produced video, singing a song I love, with people I love at a season I love. It felt like I had been given a giant hug by the love that came down at Christmas. Music does have the ability to do that.


Yes, we do need to take care not to be sentimental, but we must never deny the power of genuine religious affections. God does want us to feel his love.


Another pleasant lockdown experience in Riga was listening to the distinctively new direction that Taylor Swift has taken in her indie flavoured album Folklore. So it what a treat it has been to have my post-Riga trip self-isolation punctuated by its sequel: Evermore. Swift says that this record was “wading deeper” into the themes of Folklore.



Aaron Dessner of The National, who produced and co-wrote both albums tweeted on release day:


“I hope you enjoy the songs of Evermore as much as I do — a wilder continuation of what we started with Folklore. I can’t say enough about working with @taylorswift13 — the way she inspires simply by her incredible songcraft and kindness. It has been the experience of a lifetime.”


Both albums have been dropped on streaming websites without fanfare and with less than a day’s notice.


One of the rare things in 2020 has been spontaneity. It has been frustrating not being able to wake up and say, “Why don’t we go and visit … ?” Then we remember that those people are not in our household or bubble or that place is not open.


In the final song Swift reflects honestly on her experience this year:



“…been down since July… I had a feeling so peculiar, That this pain would be for evermore.”

The introduction of the distinctive voice of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon begins to cut through the gloom, leading to a finale in which Swift sings:


“I had a feeling so peculiar, That this pain wouldn’t be for evermore.”


Preachers who preach in Advent and Christmas 2020 need to learn to take the journey that Swift makes from “would” to “wouldn’t.”


There is considerable pain in our world today and it is not absent from the story of Jesus coming into the world. Perhaps one of the most poignant moments comes in reference to two mothers.


In Matthew we read the story of “The Slaughter of the Innocents,” and the reference in the prophecy of Jeremiah to “Rachel weeping for her children”. (Matthew 2:18)


In Luke’s Gospel we see the prophet Simeon telling the teenage mother of eight days that her son will divide opinions and be opposed and that “a sword will pierce your own soul too”. (Luke 2:35)



Yes, there is pain in the Christmas message: the vulnerable suffer violence, there are tears and wounds. Yet the gospel is reflected in Swift’s song:


“…this pain wouldn’t be forevermore.”


This child who chooses for a throne a manger of hay and later a cruel cross is the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief, who cries out on the cross, and is wounded for me.

Wounds that heal and save.


Wounds that lead to the climax of human history as graphically painted by the John in his Apocalypse:


“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)


Now that is the experience of a lifetime. Evermore!




Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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