Some Advent Thoughts

Well, December is upon us and the clamour and chaos of Christmas preparations grows ever louder, however allow me to ask you to tarry a moment to consider the season that we currently find ourselves in – Advent.

To be honest, I’d imagine that most Christians have little idea what this period of ‘Advent’ is actually about, let alone those outside the church – I certainly didn’t until I started attending an Anglican church more regularly. For the uninitiated, Advent is a season in the church calendar that lasts from the fourth Sunday before Christmas until Christmas Eve.  The name ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word ‘adventus’ which means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’.  As such, the season has a twin focus – firstly on the first coming of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas and secondly thinking ahead to Jesus’ Second Coming, which didn’t happen last year, despite the best efforts of Harold Camping to predict it thus.  If you’re looking for more detail about Advent, you can have a look here and here.  However, I don’t so much want to focus on the details of how we mark Advent, but to offer a few thoughts on why we should perhaps give it a bit more attention.

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Top 10 Greatest Power Ballads of All Time

I’ll admit it, I’m an unashamed and unabashed fan of that most majestic of musical genres – the power ballad.  This may not be a particularly cutting-edge passion of mine, but I urge you, nay I dare you, to listen to some of the tunes listed below and not feel at least a smidgen of the awesomeness contained therein.

For the uninitiated, Wikipedia defines a power ballad simply as “a ballad performed in a rock music style,” while elsewhere noting that “power ballads came into existence in the early 1970s, when rock stars attempted to convey profound messages to audiences.”  These definitions are clearly only scratching the surface of the emotional power of these titanic songs.  Urbandictionary.com is only slightly more helpful, stating that it is “a form of heavy metal music in which the listener is tempted to pump their fist into the air repeatedly synchronized with the emotional impact said song inflicts upon the listener.” (I also refer you to the 3rd definition on that page, which I’m too prudish to quote here.)  While I find the heavy metal description inaccurate, this does at least get more to the way in which these totems of tunecraft can stir the emotions and move you to increasingly unfashionable dance moves.

Power Tweeting

For me, a power ballad is a song, most commonly from the 80s, that combines the standard elements of a rock song (electric guitars, drums, charismatic lead vocalist) with lyrics that tell a story that stirs the emotions, often accompanied by a soaring chorus, epic guitar solos and key changes that take your breath away, evoking images of gravity-defying mullets and fashion-defying shoulder pads.  Other than that, it’s hard to pin it down further than to say that when know a power ballad when you hear one (which doesn’t make it highly contestable at all!).  My own love of power ballads blossomed at university, dancing along to some Bon Jovi in the Union, brooding angstfully in my room in halls and, in an unforgettable moment, duetting to ‘(Everything I Do), I Do It For You‘ with Mr Steve Causley in a karaoke bar in Beijing. ‘Epic’ doesn’t even come close.
You can listen to my painstakingly-crafted Power Ballads playlist on Spotify here. (It’s not exhaustive, but nonetheless hits most of my personal favourite specimens of songsmithery.)

But enough of all this faff! Let’s get down to this ridiculously tricky and highly contentious business of my top 10 Power Ballads of all time.  Happy to field outraged disagreements in the comments, but let’s keep this civil shall we?

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Reflections on the ‘rapture’ that never was

It has taken me somewhat by surprise just how much media coverage 89-year-old Harold Camping has generated this week with his bold assertion that the ‘Rapture’ was due this Saturday at 6pm. On the one hand, it’s not that surprising as we all enjoy the occasional crackpot conspiracy theory and that’s especially true in the secular media when said crackpot is a religious nutjob to boot. When the prediction fails to materialise, cue the calls to steer clear of such ‘faith-headed’ thinking and stick to the safer waters of reason and science. Well, so tweeted Prof. Brian Cox earlier this evening anyway.

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The Opportunities and Dangers of Twitter

As many are no doubt aware, social networking site and procrastination centre par-excellence Twitter has recently celebrated it’s 5th birthday, which has unleashed a slew of reflections on the Twitter phenomenon and it’s growing influence in culture today. Comparisons with Facebook and the potential rivalry between the two are obvious and it will be interesting to observe how each adapts to get one over on the other in the months (I say months deliberately, such is is the pace of change here) to come.
However, my purpose here is to offer up a few musings of my own on my experience of Twitter so far, particularly looking at it through the lens of how I, as a Christian, am using it and what benefits and pitfalls it may have for God’s people as they get involved in it.

I was particularly prompted to write this post by the furore surrounding the release of the promo video for Rob Bell’s ‘Love Wins’ back in February, which saw ‘Rob Bell’ trending worldwide and prompted an avalanche of tweets, blogs and reviews that is still rolling along even now. I think what struck me was that it was the first time I’d fully realised, ‘Wow, there’s a whole load of Christians on Twitter.’ Indeed, as Martin Saunders notes in his article on Twitter for Christianity magazine, “For once, Christians have been at the forefront of engaging with Twitter.” So much for the usual line that the church lags about 15 years behind the rest of the culture (this is no doubt true of many churches as regards the internet, but then that’s true of many people outside the church too).  This fact undoubtedly brings with it many opportunities for Christians and Christian organisations, but there are a number of pitfalls as well that we must be wary of. Continue reading