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Advent Day 20: Chasing Cars

Show me a garden that's bursting into life

All that I am

All that I ever was

Is here in your perfect eyes, they're all I can see

I don't know where

Confused about how as well

Just know that these things will never change for us at all

If I lay here If I just lay here Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol


Today’s song is a classic. It was announced earlier this year, that ‘Chasing Cars’ is the most-played song of the 21st Century on UK radio. Gary Lightbody, Snow Patrol’s lead guitarist, suggests its popularity lies in its simplicity, “It's an emotionally open song and it's a simple song. But it's also unabashedly a love song.”*

I’m always a bit nervous about spiritualising love songs, because it can easily get icky, gooey, or just a bit weird, but I can’t help thinking that Song of Songs is a little like God’s version of ‘Chasing Cars’. In this book of the Bible, there’s ‘a garden bursting into life’ and lovers gazing longingly into each other’s eyes (albeit described in slightly different language. ‘Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves.’)

This biblical love poem is often read as an allegory of Christ’s love for the church, and whilst it may strike us as strange to think about God’s love in such vivid and passionate terms, this kind of language is actually used throughout the Bible to describe humanity’s relationship with God. In the Psalms, David writes,

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord

It’s interesting that such passionate metaphors are rarely the choice of Bible readings at Christmas time. How do we reconcile these biblical words of yearning with the saccharine lyrics of carols like ‘Away in a Manger’?

Be near me, Lord Jesus I ask Thee to stay

Close by me forever And love me, I pray

It’s certainly a far cry from Song of Songs. And yet perhaps the core of the message is the same; whether we express the sentiment in passionate language or childlike words, when we’ve experienced Jesus’ love, all that we know is that we want to be in his presence forever.

In ‘Chasing Cars’, the lyrics also express this longing for a love that never changes, and yet it seems rather like escapist rhetoric; the idea of lying together and ‘forgetting the world’ is appealing but is the idea of chilling on the tarmac in the middle of a busy road. (You'll know what I mean if you've watched the music video.) The lyrics hint that the pleasures of young love are only temporary and to be enjoyed while they last, ‘before we get too old.’

But when we read about the life of Jesus, we find there is nothing escapist about his love. He loves “all that I am” and “ever was”, even with all of my flaws, and he does not forget the world, but he comes into the world, and loves the world to death, so that we can live in true intimacy with him. Whilst the words of ‘Away in a Manger’ might be a little too sweet and sentimental for some of us, they cannot simply be dismissed as nostalgic nonsense, because they point us towards the truth of Christmas; which is God's astounding promise to us that love that will stay with us forever…

“Just know that these things will never change for us at all.”


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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