Advent Reflection: “Alive Again” by Matt Maher

8 Dec

I haven’t been a big fan of what is known in the music business today as “Contemporary Christian Music” (aka CCM)  since after the movement was in its infancy way back in the early through mid-70s. Those early days of what was then referred to as Jesus Music arose as an outgrowth of the so-called Jesus People movement (basically a Christian  evangelical movement among newly converted hippies), and there were several young artists and groups that I listened to and found spiritually uplifting. These included the likes of Larry Norman, Barry McGuire, Mustard Seed Retreat, Love Song, Randy Stonehill, The Talbot Brothers (brothers John Michael and Terry Talbot), Malcom and Alwyn, Honeytree, Andre Crouch and the Disciples, and Richie Furay. As this movement “progressed” in instrumental sophistication, I found that I didn’t have a stomach for the later CCM music which, lyrically, began to sound like “Christian bubblegum.” I also came to a point where I had grown past the fundamentalism that characterized most of the artists. In any case, I still have a place in my heart for much of the music I heard back then.

This brings me to today’s Advent reflection… A little over year ago I stumbled across this song “Alive Again” by a somewhat younger contemporary Roman Catholic artist named Matt Maher and was deeply moved by it. (At the time I was searching for an appropriate tune that I might do for one of our school liturgies at St. Thomas More, a Catholic high school where I was then teaching theology.) Now that we are in the midst of Advent, it struck me that, while not written for this expressed purpose, the song “Alive Again,” replete as it is with Advent themes such as light and darkness, longing for God, hope, redemption, and grace, this song is a perfect source for Advent prayer and reflection.

Please sit back and enjoy this video of “Alive Again” before you continue reading below. Lyrics for the song are included in the video itself:

 

A prayer reflection:

During this season of Advent, I am reminded that even in the midst of winter darkness, be it a feeling of existential alone-ness,  or that of an acute, personal awareness of the darkness of the world at large so often bereft of love, that GOD IS HERE, silently reaching out with the offer love, grace and redemption. Whether I am simply stealing away right now for a moment of quiet solitude and prayer, or if I am feeling uncomfortably alone now, shouldering some heavy burden, perhaps even despairing of God’s absence, God is right here now waiting — waiting with the patience of eternity. That movement of longing and desire that is in my heart now is the sacrament of God’s loving presence, as is the very movement of my breathing, an act of which I rarely conscious. Like the ever present rhythm of my breath, your Spirit, your RUAH, O God, is my ever present, silent partner, bringing me life. Your light slowly shatters my darkness, just as the first faint rays of sunlight bleed through and dispel the long night. For this I thank you, even as I await the fullness of of the coming of your kingdom. Amen.

Late have I loved You
You waited for me
I searched for You
What took me so long?

I was looking outside
As if love would ever want to hide
I’m finding I was wrong


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An important footnote to Matt Maher’s song “Alive Again”…. Matt has shared that his song was inspired to write it after recalling a well-known passage from The Confessions, the spiritual autobiography of the  early Latin church father St. Augustine. St. Augustine (354-540) became a convert to Christianity after years of earnestly searching for truth and the meaning of life, being schooled as he was in the best of Greek philosophy at the time. Matt Maher is briefly alluding to the following passage that Augustine eloquently wrote concerning his own realization that his own desperate search for God, and his later falling in love with God, was itself precipitated by God’s loving grace. All is gift, all is grace.

Here is that passage:

Late have I loved you,

Beauty so ancient and so new,

late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

When at last I cling to you with my whole being there will be no more anguish or labor for me, and my life will be alive indeed, alive because filled with you. But now it is very different. Anyone whom you fill you also uplift; but I am not full of you, and so I am a burden to myself. Joys over which I ought to weep do battle with sorrows that should be matter for joy, and I do not know which will be victorious. But I also see griefs that are evil at war in me with joys that are good, and I do not know which will win the day. This is agony, Lord, have pity on me! It is agony! See, I do not hide my wounds; you are the physician and I am sick; you are merciful, I in need of mercy.
Is not human life on earth a time of testing? Who would choose troubles and hardships? You command us to endure them, but not to love them. No-one loves what he has to endure, even if he loves the endurance, for although he may rejoice in his power to endure, he would prefer to have nothing that demands endurance. In adverse circumstances I long for prosperity, and in times of prosperity I dread adversity. What middle ground is there, between these two, where human life might be free from trial? Woe betide worldly prosperity, and woe again, from fear of disaster and evanescent joy! But woe, woe, and woe again upon worldly adversity, from envy of better fortune, the hardship of adversity itself, and the fear that endurance may falter. Is not human life on earth a time of testing without respite?
On your exceedingly great mercy, and on that alone, rests all my hope.

From The Confessions of St. Augustine

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If you would like to watch a video of Matt Maher sharing his own personal account of the story behind his song “I’m Alive,” you can view it on YouTube right here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyBkwpsAb4Q&feature=related

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3 Responses to “Advent Reflection: “Alive Again” by Matt Maher”

  1. bet365 December 11, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    Good day I was luck to search your Topics in google
    your subject is splendid
    I learn a lot in your Topics really thank your very much
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    • texastom46 December 12, 2010 at 12:32 am #

      Hi,

      So glad you found my blog and enjoyed it! You are certainly welcome and encouraged to return often. I will continue to add posts during Advent and Christmas to share some things that I have found meaningful, or even just enjoyable. My hope is to help others appreciate these seasons even more than they do.

      You asked about the theme I used for my blog. I just changed to this theme a few days ago. It is called “Vermilion Christmas” and is available to WordPress blog users.

      Happy Advent and Christmas!

      Tom

  2. Sylvitans January 1, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    Hello ! I’m new on this forum, hope to talk to you soon 🙂
    I love carsn seotons and tuning, and you ?

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