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An Advent Calendar of Sorts - 2nd December

This morning, it is my turn to lead Morning prayer in the Chapel at the University of Glasgow.  The assigned Bible reading is the start of Revelation 22 - what, to me, is the 'river of life' passage and which, for me, is always linked to the River of Life sulpture/water feature that flows along Bridge Street in Warrington.

Regular readers will know that, from time to time, I allude to events that took place in Warrington on 20th March 1993, and their significance in the "peace process" for Northern Ireland. 

Warrington is a town through which the River Mersey flows in "meander" en route to the sea.  Given a few millennia, there may well be an ox-bow lake (remember those from geography lessons?) at Thelwall.  Wide, slow and carrying with it detritus and junk, in more recent years it has been cleaned up enough to allow fish to return.  Historically, a river bringing life to this part of the north of England, in what was, in 1993 a largely unheard of industrial market town.

The deliberate choice to create a civic art project quoting Revelation 22 always struck me as significant - a text precious to Catholics and Protestants alike, and an image/metaphor that crossed any or all religious divides.  A river carrying life through the city (or town in this case) and the leaves of the trees being for "the healing of the nations".  As part of the installation, twelve plaques are embossed with different leaves, and the names of different schools and communities.  Well-trodden, worn down and now, sadly due to choices for development, in a largely neglected street, the symbolism represents a conscious, deliberate and defiant decision to choose life, to choose hope.

And, to me, these are important Advent themes.  Hope is a choice, an action, a process... Life, too, is more than mere existence, it requires that we choose to be alive.

In a little over an hour, I will lead a congregation of maybe half a dozen in singing 'for the healing of the nations' and will reflect, off the cuff, and briefly, on the words from Revelation 22.  One much-loved Advent carol refers to Emmanuel as 'the desire of nations' - maybe today in pausing to recall nations in need of healing, this hope is also expressed.

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