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Advent Day 17: Walls

'Cause you got a heart so big

It could crush this town

And I can't hold out forever

Even walls fall down

Walls, The Lumineers


There’s an effortless simplicity about the Lumineers’ music. Their stripped-back style with raw, raspy vocals makes you feel as though you could be sitting in a pub listening to a live gig, and the lyrics also create a sense of charming familiarity. Everyday imagery is fused with the sort of abstract metaphors that you might find in love poetry, so that it feels almost as though you’ve heard the lyrics before.

The Lumineers use this combination to great effect in ‘Walls’, where standard metaphors (ocean, sky, heart, walls, roads, doors etc.) suddenly become far more personal when they're spoken about in relation to 'this town'. These lyrics are no longer just abstract poetry, talking about an abstract relationship; we are grounded by a sense of locality.

The same could be said of the Christmas story, which speaks of God’s big heart for us even whilst it also locates God himself in an ordinary town called Bethlehem. And I guess in many ways this is the paradox that lies behind the mystery of love itself; it is big and abstract and impossible to define or contain, but it is also shown in very simple, practical, down-to-earth ways. Indeed, God’s love is quite literally down-to-earth; for Jesus comes to earth as the true embodiment of love.

But if there is one thing that human beings are apt to forget more than anything else, I wonder if it might be the simple but mind-blowing truth that God’s heart is seriously big. We so readily construct walls around our hearts and lives, because we are too afraid to let God in. This may be a rather huge claim to make, but it seems to me that our forgetfulness, when it comes to God’s love for us, is really the root of all of the world's problems. ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’ articulates this issue of the human heart very eloquently:

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong; And man, at war with man, hears not The love-song which they bring

But the wonderfully good news is that God’s love-song to us continues through the ages whether we choose to hear it or not. Thankfully his love is neither weak nor impatient; for as it says in Psalm 23, his ‘unfailing love pursues us all the days of our life’. Perhaps the Lumineers might put it this way…

He's got a heart so big...

Even walls fall down.


This is part of my LittlePonderings series: "Unseasonal Songs: An Alternative Advent in Song Lyrics". You can find out more here.

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