This Advent season I am going to reflect on a hymn or carol daily as part of my spiritual practices. I am not sure where all these reflections will take me, but in conversation with my spiritual director, I am going to leave room for both “the head stuff” and “the heart stuff.” Some days might be more of one or another. I invite you to join me, as together we make space to listen, and be present, to sense what God might be up to.
While I was a worship and music director in the Twin Cities area, I grew to really appreciate the hymn, “Lost in the Night.” Perhaps because it’s a Nordic hymn, and I have Nordic roots. But this Finnish folk tune, translated by Olav Lee, gets me every time. It names the world we live in, it names our relationship with and need for God, and at the same time it doesn’t let you dwell in despair, but it moves to pleading and action.
Lost in the night do the people yet languish,
longing for morning the darkness to vanquish,
plaintively sighing with hearts full of anguish.
Will not day come soon? Will not day come soon?
Will not day come soon? I wake this morning to the disappointing but not surprising news of a tax reform bill’s passage in the senate. Don’t get me wrong, I think tax reform is greatly needed in the United States and I think the majority of US citizens would agree with that. I am skeptical though because of the process at what is going to result from this?
I am also in a bit of despair. I have long thought about pursuing a Ph.D. or a D.Min., and since completing my last graduate degree, I have been discerning what a doctoral study or focus might look like for me. However, given the tax debates of the past few weeks, it has looked increasingly likely that might no longer be an economic possibility some day. I am relieved that the proposal to tax tuition for graduate students appears to be absent in the Senate version of the bill, but knowing it is in the House version, I am worried about whether it will be included upon reconciliation or not. Of course, this is one of the “head things” for me today.
Must we be vainly awaiting the morrow?
Shall those who have light no light let us borrow,
giving no heed to our burden of sorrow?
Will you help us soon? Will you help us soon?
A few weeks ago, the gospel passage in worship was the story from Matthew about the ten bridesmaids, five of whom had oil in their lamps, and five who did not have enough. The five with enough, didn’t let the other five borrow any oil. As I dwell in this verse, I am struck by these words. In what ways are we not meeting our neighbor’s needs?
Reading the news this morning, I have come across a number of stories from economists who believe that this tax reform as it stands will only increase income disparity. Put another way, the rich will become richer, the poor, poorer. I don’t know about you, but my faith makes me very uncomfortable with this notion. So, that’s a heart thing. To go along with it, is the potential for charities, congregations, and nonprofits to be hit hard because the incentive to give to them may go down with the increase in the standard deduction. That’s another head thing.
Sorrowing wanderers, in darkness yet dwelling,
dawned has the day of a radiance excelling,
death’s deepest shadows forever dispelling.
Christ is coming soon! Christ is coming soon!
Just when I let the sorrows and worries of daily life get to me, I am reminded of the good news. Christ is coming soon! Christ is coming soon! Of course God is already here, but we have hope in the promise of the Resurrection.
Yesterday would have been my Grandma and Grandpa’s 61st wedding anniversary. That gives me hope. I miss Grandpa, who helped my Dad and I build my sturdy as a rock book shelves which were lofts for my bed in college. I miss Grandpa who helped me fall in love with the harmonies, and mysteries of jazz. I even miss Grandpa’s laughs and really bad grandpa/dad quality jokes. But at the same time, I am grateful for all of the lessons I learned from him. I find comfort in the promise of the Resurrection. If death can be overcome by God, so can any human created and caused sin and inequality.
Light o’er the land of the needy is beaming;
rivers of life through its deserts are streaming,
bringing all peoples a Savior redeeming.
Come and save us soon! Come and save us soon!
It might sound like I am writing as someone who doesn’t have enough today. If it does, I apologize for that. I know how fortunate I have been, and how fortunate I am. I know I have privilege, where many do not. I am grateful for it, and hope that I don’t take it for granted. In a stewardship sense, it puts life in perspective. How am I using that which I have been entrusted with, to do God’s work of peace, justice, and reconciliation- work of building up God’s kingdom?
When it feels hard to answer that question though, and even when I might have an answer or two or three, it’s only secondary to our response to what God has already done, continues to do, and promises to do, for us. “Bringing all peoples a Savior redeeming…” This isn’t just a hope and promise for me, or for you. This is for “all peoples.” I think that’s the greatest hope that I have.
It’s the hope and promise which I know will be present across the street in a few hours, as a faithful member of my congregation who claimed her baptismal promises this past week is laid to rest. It’s the hope and promise which I also think is at the heart of this season of Advent. “Come and save us soon! Come and save us soon!” Amen.
Credit/Reference: “Lost in the Night,” tr. Olav Lee, Nordic hymn, Finnish folk tune, found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 243.