As I got into seminary and thereafter, I met people who really didn't believe in singing Christmas hymns until Christmas. Okay, I thought, but what the hell are you gonna sing? I knew one of my favorite hymns -O Come, O Come, Emmanuel- was an Advent song, but there were few others that I knew. In time, I have found that there are a good number of songs to sing during Advent, which I think is a good thing for anyone dealing with depression or a death of a loved one or just not being very interested in trying to be all cheery. We sang two in church this morning:
- Awake, Awake and Greet the New Morn, by my favorite hymnwriter, Marty Haugen;
- Creator of the Stars of Night.
There are others that I have found out as great hymns like Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence and a few others. I'm not opposed to singing a few Christmas hymns before Christmas, but it is good that these hymns take precedence over the usual Christmas hymns. Why? Look at the lyrics to Awake, Awake:
Awake! awake, and greet the new morn,
an angel heralds its dawning,
sing out your joy, for Christ will be born,
God's gift, this Child of our longing.
Christ comes as a baby weak and poor,
to bring all hearts together,
to open wide the heavenly door,
and live here inside us forever.
To everyone who sorrows or fears,
Emmanuel comes asinging;
the humble song is quiet and clear,
but fills the earth with its ringing.
Music to heal the broken soul
and hymns of loving kindness,
the thunder of the anthems roll
to shatter all hate and injustice.
In deepest night Christ's coming shall be,
when all the world is despairing.
Where people long to love and be free,
Christ comes to speak of God's caring.
A soul without voice breaks forth in song,
a lame one leaps in wonder,
the weak are raised above the strong,
and weapons are broken asunder.
Rejoice, rejoice, take heart in the night,
though winds blow wildly 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 every day we share,
and bring us at last into glory.
Music: Rejoice, Rejoice Marty Haugen (20th C)
Words: Marty Haugen (20th C)
Sequence: Cathouse Pandemonium, Ltd.
This song speaks to those struggling with life. It tells people that hope is on the way, in the most unexpected form. I don't know if this is an American thing, but we tend to skip some important parts of the Christian life. We skip Holy Week and Good Friday and go straight to Easter. We skip Advent and go the little baby born in a stable. But that's only part of the story. Soley focusing on Easter when Jesus is raised from the dead or when Christ is born is to forget the pain that we are faced with and what God entered in. Advent reminds us that things are not okay, which is why God came in the form of a little baby.
So, I will look forward to these hymns. They give me hope and remind me that the God I worship entered into human pain and knows what I feel. I am reminded God is my hope. Amen.