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Come

Come, follow me into the realm of music.

Here is the gate

Which separates the earthly from the eternal.

It is not like stepping into a strange country

As once we did. We soon learn everything to know there

And nothing surprises us anymore. Here

Our wonderment will have no end, and yet

From the beginning we feel at home.

 

At first you hear nothing, because everything sounds.

But now as you being to distinguish between them. Listen.

Each star has its rhythm and each world its beat.

The heart of each separate living thing

Beats differently, according to its needs,

And all beats in harmony.

 

-Your inner ear grows sharper. Do you hear

the deep notes and the high notes?

They are immeasurable in space and infinite as to number.

Like ribbons, undreamt-of scales lead from one world to

Another,

Steadfastly and eternally moved.

 

Hugh Mac Diarmid, In Memoriam James Joyce

As the Lord had commanded

This morning I have been reading through the end of the book of Exodus. The end of the book concludes with all the instructions for the building of the tabernacle, the garments the priests are to wear and how they will approach and conduct themselves within the place of worship.

This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did. In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected. Moses erected the tabernacle. He laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars. And he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent over it, as the Lord had commanded Moses. He took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above on the ark. And he brought the ark into the tabernacle and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony, as the Lord had commanded Moses. He put the table in the tent of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil, and arranged the bread on it before the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses. He put the lampstand in the tent of meeting, opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle, and set up the lamps before the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses. He put the golden altar in the tent of meeting before the veil, and burned fragrant incense on it, as the Lord had commanded Moses. He put in place the screen for the door of the tabernacle. And he set the altar of burnt offering at the entrance of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the Lord had commanded Moses. He set the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing, with which Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. When they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, as the Lord commanded Moses. And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40:16-38 ESV)

I was struck by how many times the phrase is repeated, “as the Lord had commanded.” It is after all of these commandments are completed that the Lord descends upon His tabernacle to dwell in the midst of His people. It made me stop and wonder how often do we expect God to show up, lead us and bless us before we have done “as the Lord commanded?”

Psalm 151

O Thou my God, all peoples praise Thee and assure Thee of Thy loftiness.

But even if I do, or not, what can it signify to Thee?

Who am I, to believe that my prayer is necessary?

When I say ‘God,’ I know that I mean by this the Sole,

All-powerful, Omniscient and unimaginable One,

Of whom I neither can nor may make unto myself an image.

On whom I neither may nor can make the least claim,

Who will fulfill my most fervent prayer or not notice it.

And, for all that, I pray, as everything that lives prays;

For all that, I beg for grace and wonders, fulfillments.

For all that, I pray,

Since I would not be deprived of the felicitous sense of unity, of union with Thee.

O Thou my God, Thy grace has left us prayer as a means of contact,

A blessed means of contact with Thee,

As a bliss which gives us more than would all fulfillment.


Arnold Schoenberg


Joy has dawned

Joy has dawned upon the world
Promised from creation
God’s salvation now unfurled
Hope for every nation
Not with fanfares from above
Not with scenes of glory
But a humble gift of love
Jesus born of Mary

Sounds of wonder fill the sky
With the songs of angels
As the mighty Prince of Life
Shelters in a stable
Hands that set each star in place
Shaped the earth in darkness
Cling now to a mother’s breast
Vulnerable and helpless

Shepherds bow before the Lamb
Gazing at the glory
Gifts of men from distant lands
Prophesy the story
Gold a King is born today
Incense God is with us
Myrrh His death will make a way
And by His blood He’ll win us

Son of Adam Son of heaven
Given as a ransom
Reconciling God and man
Christ our mighty Champion!
What a Saviour what a Friend
What a glorious mystery
Once a babe in Bethlehem
Now the Lord of history

Getty and Townend

Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi,

Lamb of God, who take away sins of world,

miserere nobis.

have mercy on us.

Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi,

Lamb of God, who take away sins of world,

dona nobis pacem.

grant us peace.

And He shall be called Emmanuel; God with Us

In honor of the Christmas celebratory events that are so soon to come upon us, I have decided to give this post an advent theme!  That, and I was inspired by the rendition of the hymn “O come o come Emmanuel,” we sang in Church on Sunday as they attempted to squish the 12th century carol into three chords and a march like rhythm driven by boom chucks on the trap set. This replete with three women singing into microphones and bopping around like they were singing “Here comes the sun doot do do do,” with egg shakers and an occasional brush of the wind chimes.  Between that and the rewritten gender-inclusive, non- militaristic lyrics, I was so distracted I had absolutely no idea what we were singing about.

For clarification, I have nothing inherently against trap sets, egg shakers or wind chimes, or even bopping women with microphones.  But seriously, stop for a minute and read these words.  What are we singing about? Who are we singing to?

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

As I was ranting in the car on the way home to my husband, he pointed out (and I believe he was right) that I can’t really hold the musicians at fault- they are not trained musically, and they are just doing with they have always done.  No song would be complete without an egg shaker. =)  But here’s the thing, whether the musicians were “at fault” or not – I still think what they were doing was inappropriate.  We were singing about the incarnation of Almighty God in human flesh come to earth to ransom His people from death and Hell.  How does boom chuck and egg shaker add to or uphold that message? Someone with a great amount of skill and musical intuition could probably make it work- but it wasn’t happening on Sunday.

I think one of the things I have been most struck with lately is that if the intention of our music is to express some truth about God and His work in the world, we must express it in a way that neither dilutes or distracts from that message.   When Christ was preaching He often said things that his “audience” did not find immediately understandable or even gratifying,  some of which we still struggle with today- “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” Whoa.  Yet, He didn’t seem trouble Himself saying, “oh, you’re right, that’s way too complicated, let me simplify, let me make that more ‘culturally relevant’ or let me make that ‘less offensive’.” He spoke what was true.  As servants of Christ, the music we make should be appropriate to the message we wish to send, music that is true.  It should be true to the message of Christ.

Inspired by my husband’s message to his youth group later that night, the next morning I read the book of Matthew, one of the places where we find that beloved quotation from the book of Isaiah, “’Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel (which means, God with us).”  If you keep reading through to the end of the book, Matthew concludes with Jesus saying, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Sometimes when you read only sections, this ending can seem kind of abrupt, but read as a whole- the book is meticulously crafted- ending where it began like perfect bookends.  God with us.  I feel like this might be an important concept, and probably not a real simplistic one. One that may not find itself well expressed with three chords, boom chucks or shoo-bop-sha-doobidoos.

Emmanuel, God is with us.  This is what Christmas is all about.  Almighty God has come to earth in human flesh to save us, to reconcile us to Himself, so that He may be with us even to the end of the age.  He wants you to know. He wants you to hear.  Don’t let the egg shakers distract you from the truth of the message.