Advent simplicity that we don’t know.
The advent season reminds, restarts, and renews. As we remember and celebrate the arrival of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, everything literally stops and holds. The focus is on the star, the child, the light.
All of our worldly “lights” dim in comparison in respect and deference to the source. Don’t get me wrong, I love the candles, and the bells, with choirs and songs and stunning experiences envisioned and executed by men old and new but the simplicity of the child is unparalleled in its message and personal connection to my heart mind and soul.
For too long, I’ve focused on the buildings, the smells, sounds, and the singing. What matters is the smiles and the eyes of the hearts as they open and understand. The advent of the true king is a spectacle beyond the imagination of men. The best we can do is focus on a child and fall on our knees. We humble ourselves at the manger with its ugly, loud, decidedly unchurchy vision. The ox and the ass bow along with the sheep. The angels and the shepherds give honor and praise.
The king is here in this moment. He was, is, and will always be. Emmanuel, God with us, reminds us of HIS amazing love. He reminds us that OUR work is only just beginning. Advent is indeed the end of the beginning. The story we find ourselves in is not written nor is it complete even as it is fully known. It just isn’t known by you and me and that is alright.
I remember the first time I sang the Messiah solos of Comfort ye and Every Valley. It was in the chapel at Princeton Seminary for a wedding. I wonder how good I was as a 19 year old. Today, I heard my son sing his first pass at the Messiah solos at Ardmore Baptist in Winston Salem. He was so much better than I was at his age. Style, composure, artistic message, command, and fine, elegant singing. Tenors are a funny stressed bunch of souls. Singing comfort ye is not comforting normally. Today, I was calm and comforted for lots of reasons.
The artistry of the the PrillaKids is well known to most but today it feels like the first time I’m comfortable that the coming valleys will indeed be straight. I’ve sung that line hundreds of times, but clearly I need to listen more than talk more often. They have got this.
First time I’m comfortable saying that I’ve turned the page. Every day is a chance to step back and see that all we like sheep have gone astray and yet Hallelujah and amens still happen in spite of us. Our masks are ripped off and the face is there for all to see.
Best thing I’ve heard from a pulpit in a while. I’ve added my take of course...
2019- year the media and “culture” said to cancel the negative people. Don’t do anything with them. Those realists are just negative Nellies. Everything will be fine as soon as the negative voices are gone.
2020- the year where we were all encouraged to shout down the positive hopeful people because the world was ending and system is deplorable. Their support for standing up and singing loud and proud is a radical position. Hunker down and look out for yourself above all. Socializing is unsafe. If you want to see and be with people you are killing them. Be fearful.
2021- this year we are not supposed to ANYTHING with ANYONE because... there is just too much risk. Be alone. Wait for permission. Someday when it is safe the powers in the know will tell you.
I never bought into any of it. I’m sorry for the months in 2020 where I was so flipping afraid. It will not happen again from me. Be. Love. Serve. Repeat. Is not a passive sit back and watch thing done on a video stream or TV. Living is loving and loving is living. Face to face. Hand to hand. Heart to heart.
Just imagine what could happen if the social media giants turned their full attention to unity. They could “tune” their algorithms to promote the areas and topics of agreement, the topics which bridge and connect disparate groups. Instead, there is this rush to be right and silence anyone who disagrees, promoted and prioritized with insidious efficiency. The effect is a population at war.
We cannot silence and silo ideas and people so brazenly and expect the dissent to just go away. The history of humanity proves this point beyond a reasonable doubt.
My solution is simpler than most would imagine.
— Sing together regularly seeking a spark of inspiration in texts and melodies. It must be done intentionally and actively. Church is a place to start. The discipline of singing within the group and achieving a shared sound of the soul is worthy of high regard. #ChoirIsLife
As to social media. The powers that be could change their approach if they wanted. They do not. These 21st century robber barons profit from the fighting and the attention of their addicted population (products)
Singing in a safe space is a way forward. We need to start somewhere in society. The local church and musicians are a critical step.
We as individual must step up and be the light. #JustSing
The choir and collective singing is in the heart of worship. It is powerful, indicting, and comforting, but not always comfortable. Your congregation is essentially a choir. The recent pandemic crisis has restricted almost all communal singing due to the numbers, aerosol science speculations, fear, and the reality that Covid is a serious and dangerous disease for many choral singers due to age, comorbidity and a whole series of issues and complications born out of congregating together.
Is worship suffering? Yes it is.
Are churches growing in the midst of this crisis? Not in nickels and noses that I can see. but maybe in other ways.
My premise is that the absence of congregational and choral singing has reminded us all of how important worship is to our wellbeing. It also exposes a critical gap in many churches engagement models. Fellowship, Sunday School for kids and adults, Bible Study, and Service projects are the lifeblood of our churches.. Worship is a reflection of service.. in a service. It is the lens, the metric, to evaluate our health. When we are faithful and submit to serve and love others… Worship will showcase our hearts.
We must sing together and share songs. This is about more than physical singing. It is about example. Singing is uncomfortable for many because it is an outward and public sharing of heart. This exposes us, and makes us vulnerable. We are so lucky that God covers us.
Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you.
The loss of choral singing is crippling our families, churches, schools, and society in general. #ChoirIsLife - Singing soothes the savage beast of our souls.
It will be safe to sing together “as we have always done it” when the medical establishment has an approved and recommended treatment plan in place for the different risk segments of the population. If we as a population have confidence that we can and will be be treated, given a fighting chance, we can move into a new normal.
Important points. <ASSUMPTIONS>
My choir rehearsals will resume and my congregations will be empowered and enabled to sing. Outside. Inside. All around. When... the medical establishment has an approved and recommended treatment plan in place for the different risk segments of the population.
My final thoughts for today's Thursday Singing thinking are:
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord and sing and make a joyful noise... in every way, every day, as opportunities arise. We will not live in fear into the future. We will not lead in fear of the future. Things have changed indeed. We stand and sing together to be counted among the faithful.
Be strong in the Lord and be of good courage.
Goal: Growth and spiritual development occur in community and context
"I am amazed again and again how the mastery of successive minute technical details releases floods of spiritual understanding."
Robert Shaw in "Dear People"
"Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other." - Mere Christianity CS Lewis
How to get credit for being able to manage/hit life’s curve balls? Live.
Share success, even with those who can’t see. “People” don’t and likely won’t give you credit. Most of the time they don’t even see the plans or complexity... seeking credit is ultimately is the failure ... I fail every time.
Just live = Just sing. The singing, the journey... is the whole point.
I’m looking for Christian musician(s) in MHC to work with me, teach me, and learn with me as we design/build transformative music performances for worship.
Heart of artist is critical... skills for arranging and exploring excellence in ALL styles... must be willing to blend classical liturgical traditions with contemporary/pop/jazz/rap —- to create a dynamic “flow”... guitar, bass, percussion, piano, organ, brass, winds.... all play parts... and Singing is the key. #JustSing
We will rehearse and plan and work at Rolling Ridges and around... schedule TBD
Bonus: familiar with concepts and expectations outlined in this important text by Rory Noland.
Intersection of principles and practices...