Singing Faith Through the Liturgical Year
I sing to my infant son whenever we’re in the car together, and since singing whatever comes to mind usually means “Come Thou Found” on repeat, I try to sing songs according to the liturgical year(ish).*
*haters gonna hate, but there was a lot of Christmas music happening during Advent—sorrynotsorry y’all!
Over the last six weeks or so, I’ve sung a lot of Incarnational theology.
I didn’t notice it at first.
Actually I was more like, “Gahhhh all this jolly-ho-ho British carol nonsense grumpgrumpgrump why don’t I have more Lutheran chorales memorized?”*
*(Why? Because I rarely sang chorales growing up and now I’m an organist who has to think about other things besides memorizing verses 2-8 of “Savior of the Nations, Come”—or even better, all fifteen (15!!) stanzas of “All My Heart This Night Rejoices”—worthy endeavors though these are.)
But I kept on singing about the “tidings of comfort and joy” because I think this hymn-singing-in-the-car is a good habit to keep. And over the weeks of December, I gradually noticed what I was really singing about on all those car rides: I was singing about the Incarnation and the Angel’s “good news of great joy.”
It wasn't just a bouncy song telling me to “rejoice with heart and soul and voice”—this gladness was backed up with: “Now ye need not fear the grave: Jesus Christ was born to save!”
A poem on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac this week coincided with my Christmastide thoughts (thanks to a friend for sharing it with me!). Music, the poet Anne Porter suggests, reveals a part of us that is open to the Incarnation, to the One who “came to live with us / And wanders where we wander.”
This daily habit of singing opens my heart up to God in the midst of my worries, my lack of sleep, and even my fears.
As Christmastide comes to a close, its Incarnational focus culminates in the feast of Epiphany (or, Theophany)—the revealing of Jesus Christ as God. In some traditions, the feast emphasizes the gifts of the Magi to the Christ Child, but in the Orthodox tradition that I am a part of, the feast celebrates Christ’s baptism, so I've been memorizing the words to “When Jesus Came to Jordan”*—a hymn that points toward the repentance that Jesus preached as he began his ministry.
*learned via Lovelace’s anthem, which is quite nice if you’re looking for something for a volunteer choir.
With this singing throughout Advent and Christmas, did I magically become more hopeful for the future—am I less stressed—have my problems vanished? No.
But are all the worldly cares, all the “wars and rumors of wars” set in perspective as I meditated on the Incarnate One through this singing?
Yes they are.