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.
The hymn of the day yesterday at Emmanuel Lutheran (where I preached) was “Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn.” It has a beautiful melody with a rich text composed by Marty Haugen. And for the pianists (like me) or organists in the world, what is an added benefit, is that it is in G-Major. If you know Marty Haugen’s hymns, you know they are beautiful, but you also know that he seems to love keys with multiple sharps or multiple flats, which can drive an accompanist a little crazy.
That being said, the text is sitting with me today, as the forecast here in Nebraska calls for change- the winds to blow, and a front to move through. Perhaps winter may yet be coming, as we have had 60-degree days to start December so far.
Awake! Awake, and greet the new morn, for angels herald its dawning.
Sing out your joy, for soon he is born, behold the Child of our longing.
Come as a baby weak and poor, to bring all hearts together,
he opens wide the heavenly door and lives now inside us forever.
During this Advent time, I wonder are we awake? Are we awake and mindful? Will we allow ourselves time to be quiet and listen? Will we allow ourselves time to try something new and wonder aloud what God might be up to? These are just a few questions that are on my mind this morning, in a head sense.
To us, to all in sorrow and fear, Emmanuel comes a singing,
his humble song is quiet and near, yet fills the earth with its ringing;
music to heal the broken soul and hymns of loving kindness,
the thunder of his anthems roll to shatter all hatred and blindness.
In a heart sense, I was kind of taken aback yesterday by a comment I received from a parishioner. Without going into too much detail, I was basically called overweight or fat. In the one sense, I am glad that I am the one receiving body comments and not my wife. But on the other hand, it still hurts, given that I am working out every day and have been doing good work.
I think what really confounds me though, is that any person would feel okay to make those kind of comments about another person, let alone in public in front of others. Body shaming is not okay. We’re better than this. Yet, I know this happens much more to women in leadership, ministry, and life than men. This sorrow though is met by the fact that I can only focus on me, and not on what others think of me. What I can do though is respond healthily, and model a different way– a way of building others up in love and support which I believe should be (and is) at the heart of Christian community.
In darkest night his coming shall be, when all the world is despairing,
as morning light so quiet and free, so warm and gentle and caring.
Then shall the mute break forth in song, the lame shall leap in wonder,
the weak be raised above the strong, and weapons be broken asunder.
Change is constant. Our faith is built on an understanding of change. The great reversal that comes with God in Christ coming into the world, is one such change. Christ’s presence opens the door for so much more in the way of change. I wonder, what do you see needs to change so that the “lame shall leap in wonder…the weak be raised…and weapons broken asunder”? In what small ways do you see these changes taking place around you? I wonder too, in what ways are you hoping to see more change?
Rejoice, rejoice, take heart in the night, though dark the winter and cheerless,
the rising sun shall crown you with light, be strong and loving and fearless.
Love be our song and love our prayer and love our endless story;
may God fill everyday we share and bring us at last into glory.
This last verse is just so beautiful. It captures what I think Advent is, so well. A time of hope, waiting, preparation, being awake, and sharing of love. I hope that your day is one filled with such beauty, contemplation, and love. May you be awake to what God is doing, and bold enough to wonder, “how might I be a part of that today?”
Credit/Reference: Marty Haugen, “Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn,” (GIA Publications, Inc., 1983). Found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 242. OneLicense.