Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Advent Prison

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes … and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today's reading from Philipians is so upbeat, so full of thanks, praise and confidence that the God who "began a good work in us with carry it on to completion"  that it is easy to miss the fact that Paul wrote it "in chains". There are many kinds of prisons in our lives, those we create for ourselves and those we create for others out of our abuse or privilege. We only have to read the news to see on a daily basis the fact that humans are often better at creating prisons than in allowing freedom to flourish. Part of the promise of Advent is the promise of freedom, or as Isaiah put it, " to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness  the prisoners." Light in darkness and freedom from chains when seen as metaphors for a release from worldly woes create an inspiring ideal -  one which a cynic might well reject as pie in the sky.  Paul's words are those of a man who may be physically captive but who has achieved a mental and spiritual freedom because of his dependence on God. The next paragraph goes on to explore the paradox that Paul's chains advance the gospel and might make us consider that the Good News does not promise us freedom from our difficulties but rather freedom in spite of them. Paul's imprisonment is a metaphor for Advent because he waits with hope, with trust in God and in the knowledge that ,even while held captive to difficulties and constraints, God can still complete a good work in us if we rely on Him.


  1. I do like this, Sue. We didn't have the Epistle reading today (only ever one of the two - OT or Epistle) so this fills the gap nicely for me. Thank you.

  2. Thank you Perpetua. I seem to be blogging more at the moment, mainly because I keep having new thoughts about things and this is a way of expressing them, but it is nice if they are appreciated as well. During this coming week I am planning to do some reading around and commenting on other people's blogs on my list!