A Christmas Song for Three Guilds: An Analysis (Part 1)

Garrett begins an analysis of Chesterton’s poem, “A Christmas Song for Three Guilds”.

What does Advent mean to us, on a personal level? How does this brief season, where we prepare for the coming of Jesus, relate to how we live our lives for the rest of the year? Before the dawn of Advent proper, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, where we recognize the sovereignty of Jesus in our lives, in preparation for his coming as the newborn king. But many find this idea of Jesus as ‘King’ problematic – in a democratic era, kingship can easily be seen as something oppressive and tyrannical. Therefore in this Advent season, I’d like to turn to G.K. Chesterton’s poem A Christmas Song for Three Guilds, which I believe suggests a much more egalitarian idea of the Kingdom of God than we are likely to picture.

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Placing the Inn Keeper in the Advent Narrative

Chris shares a bit more about the inn-keeper in the Advent narrative and wonders whether all of us are sometimes inn-keepers towards the Holy Family as well.

“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  – Luke 2:6-7

I often wonder how Joseph must have felt when he received the news that there was “no place” for him and his pregnant wife from the innkeeper. Having travelled so many hours, in probably harsh and treacherous conditions, Joseph must have experienced immense disappointment, frustration and anger. Joseph possibily even panicked. Did he have a backup plan? He and his wife could not possibily stay on the streets right? And how about pregnant Mary? Surely traveling in her physical state must have been awfully tiring and painful. I wonder whether she cried out in helplessness upon hearing that there was “no place” for her and her husband. I wonder whether Joseph and Mary felt hopelessness and despair. Is it not interesting, then, to briefly ponder about how the Advent story – the often overly-cherry, merry-making and consumerist-laden narrative – began as a tale of rejection? On hindsight, would the innkeeper have created space and made room for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, should he have realised that he was actually rejecting the Holy Family?

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Playing Herod: An Advent Reflection

Garrett reflects on what we can learn from Herod’s bad example as we move into the Advent season.

Last December, I went with a group of Catholic university friends on a mission trip to Cambodia, to an education centre run by the Marist brothers. I remember vividly one item on the agenda in particular: to put up a Nativity play to entertain the kids. It was at our lodging one night when the director of the play announced the roles, after discussing with the trip leader. And lo and behold, the director revealed, yours truly was to play Herod.

Now, I admit I’ve always been somewhat thin-skinned and sensitive, so my first instinct was hurt and shock at being asked to play the ‘villain’ of the Nativity story. But as I prepared for the role, and looking back on that time with the benefit of hindsight, I find myself having to accept an uncomfortable truth – that old Herod and I may have more than a little in common. As we draw nearer to Advent once again, I offer this short reflection in the hope that it may provide some insight into the common pitfalls that may occur as we prepare ourselves spiritually for the birth of Our Lord.

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