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'You're not singing any more'

To help pupils understand that Christian joy and hope, which are an integral part of Advent, transcend the evil and suffering in the world around us.

by Paul Hess

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To help pupils understand that Christian joy and hope, which are an integral part of Advent, transcend the evil and suffering in the world around us.

Preparation and materials

  • (Optional) You may wish to display images of some of the main (bad) news events of 2011, referred to in section 2 below.
  • (Optional) As students enter and leave the assembly, you could play Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going on?’, a poignant reflection on the suffering and injustice in the world.
  • The story of Paul and Silas in jail is in Acts 16.19–34.

Assembly

  1. If you have ever been to a live football game, you will know that chanting is a large part of the experience. Most football chants these days are crude, rather than funny, but there’s one that strikes me as being witty: if a goal scored against them silences a set of fans who have previously been vociferous, the fans of the other team will often taunt them by chanting, ‘You’re not singing any more.’ (Should you wish to sing it, the words go, ‘You’re not singing, you’re not singing, you’re not singing any more, you’re not singing any more’ to the tune of ‘Bread of Heaven’!)

    Not only are the fans celebrating their own team’s success, but they are mocking the silence of the opposition supporters in the face of adversity.
  2. It’s very easy – as we look at the world around us – to find that we are not singing any more. As we look back at some of the news stories of 2011 – spending cuts, the phone hacking scandal, the US and European debt crises, the Japanese tsunami, famine in Africa, global warming, street violence in this country, the ongoing threat of terrorism – it’s easy to become depressed about the state of the world.
  3. One of the great images from the New Testament is that of St Paul – and his assistant Silas – sitting with their feet in stocks in jail in Philippi. They have just been severely flogged, yet instead of hanging their heads hopelessly or quaking with fear, what are they doing? To the astonishment of their jailers and the other prisoners, they are singing! For Paul and Silas, no adversity can dampen the joy and hope they derive from their faith in Christ.

    At the very heart of faith lie a hope and a vision that can never be suppressed. Desmond Tutu, the former Archbishop of Cape Town, once said – in the darkest days of apartheid in South Africa – that as Christians we are prisoners of hope, that is, we cannot do anything else but hope.
  4. Advent is a time when Christians look forward to the coming of Christ their King. It is a time when they celebrate the hope and joy that are at the heart of their faith.

    In a well-known passage in the Bible, often read during Advent, the prophet Micah speaks words of hope. He looks forward to the time when the peoples of the world will live together in peace and justice, a time when the nations ‘shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks’, a time when ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation’ (Micah 4.3).

    Every true football fan knows that the right response to adversity is to sing even louder. In the midst of the darkness of our world, let us never stop singing the song of hope and joy.

Time for reflection

The story of Paul and Silas in jail shows how Christian joy and hope cannot be shaken by even the worst of circumstances.

(Read Acts 16.19–34 (or 19–26 if you want a shorter reading).)

 

Prayer

Lord God, during this time of Advent,

help us to experience that hope which can never be shaken,

and that joy which never ends.

Amen.

Hymn

‘Christ be our light’ (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 401)

Publication date: November 2011   (Vol.13 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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