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Blog // Thoughts
December 3, 2006

Advent One

Advent starts today (and the advent film blogging starts tonight). Unfortunately I missed church with the family, having come down with a cold. Whilst resting this afternoon, as L and C decorated the tree, I took some time to think back on previous advent seasons and things I’ve written. In particular, these words, from last […]

Advent starts today (and the advent film blogging starts tonight). Unfortunately I missed church with the family, having come down with a cold. Whilst resting this afternoon, as L and C decorated the tree, I took some time to think back on previous advent seasons and things I’ve written. In particular, these words, from last advent in Delhi, came to mind.

“Philosophers have always struggled with the idea of identity, who we are and what makes us who we are. One idea is that our identity comes from the fact that we have existed through time. So it is not just who we are at any one moment, but the way the moments string together (I like the image of string holding up a series of photos representing the memories of our life).

This time of year, we often sense the connection between memories and memories. We sense the feeling that we have been here before, one more year, one more tree, one more burden of present-shopping. Not to forget the rituals of carols, advent candles, family meals.

All these things connect us to who we have been at other points in our lives; like friends we have known for a long time, they remind us of who we really are, who we have been. I think that is something very powerful about this time of year as we gather with friends and with family, something about the power of memory. This is a contrast to the direction of so much contemporary life, which is about pushing forward to goals and dreams, often leaving the past “behind.”

The power of memory we encounter during Advent and Christmas evokes the Old Testament theme of remembering. Whenever God would do something mighty or salvific, the response would always be, we must remember this. A typical way of doing this would be to build a pile of stones, a simple monument that would help remind each person who passed it of a lesson learned about God, about faith and about life. Maybe we do something similar today when we take a photo, we long to remember, to re-live.

For Christian believers this remembering carries a particular significance because the season is about the birth of Jesus Christ. For me the accouterments of the season; the tree, the decorations, the music, all carry with them memories that evoke not just my identity, but lessons about faith. They remind me of God and the ways I have struggled to understand and be faithful to God. The music book I used playing in churches during my twenties, when I learnt so much about Christian community. The Advent candle holder I bought Cologne during a time when I was reassessing my faith reminds me of the cool calm of the Gothic cathedral. The decorated baubles bought here in Delhi, will in the future remind me of present struggles, of small victories and great defeats.

These things I will carry with me when I leave Delhi, they presently decorate the house and will decorate it again and again in years to come. Each one bearing a memory, each one a monument, each one a reminder.”

[tags] Christmas, Identity [/tags]

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