Behind closed doors

In our fifth Advent Antiphon for December 21st, we end up, for a while, in the gutter!

O Key of David, who open the gates of the eternal kingdom, come to liberate from prison the captive who lives in darkness.

In a funny yet touching song written and performed by comedian Tim Minchin, called Not Perfect, one of the verses goes “ This is my house / And I live in it / It’s made of cracks / And photographs /We rent it off a guy who bought it from a guy / Who bought it from a guy / Whose grandad left it to him / And the weirdest thing is that this house / Has locks to keep the baddies out / But they’re mostly used to lock ourselves in”

In recent years there has been debate around one of the responses to homelessness and rough sleeping, in particular the various architectural designs added to buildings and the built landscape to prevent people from gathering in or sleeping in particular areas.  More often than not, this has come from pressure from some parts of the community who struggle with the effects of such activity.

It’s a difficult juggling act: to weigh up the needs and rights of those who have no home and no front door, and the rights of others in our community who want a safe and clean environment in which to live.  The debates which follow are often polarised and, quite understandably, filled with emotion and, sometimes, misunderstanding.

And yet you could say that all of us have aggressive architecture built into our homes.  We have garden walls and garden gates to mark out our property and dissuade people from trespassing and coming too close.  We have front doors to stop people from wandering in at will, as well as to keep the cold out!  And these doors have locks, of course, “to keep the baddies out” or maybe, as the song goes, “mostly used to lock ourselves in.”

In recent years, too, we have been grappling with the phenomenon of cuckooing when vulnerable people have their homes taken over by criminal gangs and drug dealers.  They live in fear, locked in, hidden away from the world who are oblivious to all the things that can happen behind closed doors.

Into this domestic dilemma of looked doors and homelessness comes Jesus, the key of David, as he’s called in today’s O Antiphon.

Having the key to something or somewhere means having access and even power, the ability to allow people to come and go, to open up and let them in, or close them out, to keep them out.  It’s a symbol both incarceration and liberation.

Just as King David,  from whose family line Jesus has descended, had the keys to the holy city of Jerusalem, so Jesus now has they keys to the heavenly Jerusalem, opening the life of heaven through his liberating death and resurrection.

He comes, too, to liberate those who are imprisoned, those who live in darkness.  What this darkness is, of course, is different for each person, each place.

He comes to open doors, to let us out, to free us perhaps from the traps of poverty or mental health, drug dependency or fractured friendships, the pain of unemployment or lost lives.  He liberates us from loneliness and isolation, from the slog of working too hard, or being worked too hard by others.  He frees us from the fear of being used by others, of being tossed about on the wind of change, a victim of decisions made by others, a fear of one’s own life slowing down, as the world moves on too fast, too quickly.

Wherever and whatever the darkness is, Christ comes with the key to open the doors, enters into our darkness to bring light, to help us see the way.

Wherever and whatever the darkness is, Christ comes with the key to open the doors, enters into our darkness to bring light, to help us see the way.

Whilst so many social and personal problems remain in the world, in our world, we can trust in Christ who comes to save us, who changes our perspective on what it means to live, what life is, and to raise our hearts and minds to heaven.

‘All of us are in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars,” wrote Oscar Wilde in one of his plays. Christ has already been there, in the gutter, and is there still, alongside us.

O Key of David, who open the gates of the eternal kingdom, come to liberate from prison the captive who lives in darkness.

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