David Ker asked something like that on two Lingamish posts recently. Well, I thought he asked a question along those lines on either this post or this one. But, what I find when I go looking is this statement:
Somebody really ought to write a song that includes the bad stuff. Life is all about contrasts.
In any case, the feeling that stuck itself in my mind in response to those two posts, finds expression in the form of this question, “Where have all the sad songs gone?”
Many of them, I have found, are in the Methodist hymnal from the church I attend, and the Lutheran hymnal from the church I visited on Sunday (I was invited to a special joint service with their English and Spanish congregations. It was beautiful.) And in the Presbyterian hymnal from the church just a block away from my church.
When I need a song to weep to (or with), when I need a song that puts words to the sorrows of my heart and the trust that I hold even in that sorrow, those hymnals come through for me (well, I don’t yet have a copy of the Lutheran hymnal yet. It’s on its way, though, and from what I saw, skimming through the hymnbook on Sunday, I expect it to come through for me, too.)
A surprising place to find songs that include the bad stuff and the contrasts is the Advent section of the hymal. Advent is the time we remember the years of waiting for the Messiah, and the time in which we can make space for the tears, the waiting and hoping we continue to do as we go on living in a world with sorrows.
The “Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him” of Christmas celebration perhaps reaches it’s fullest meaning, when it is taken as a response to the other “Come” carol: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Song of God appear.”
And the chorus, with it’s “Rejoice! Rejoice!” that is based, not in completed fulfillment, but in the hope that “Emmanuel shall come to thee.”
Even though I know and find comfort and peace in Jesus, as Emmanuel, God with us, my heart understands and responds to the cry, “O Come, O Come.” Today, as then, God-With-Us so seldom comes in the ways I most want to be delivered, and certainly not on my timetable. He continues to be WITH us. And at the same time I rejoice about that, my heart longs and grieves and cries out for more.
Another thing I appreciate about the three hymnals I’ve mentioned here is the presence of liturgical readings between songs. So, for example, in the Methodist hymnal, between the seven mournful verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” are seven short readings, each concluded with a corporate prayer, such as: “Come and save us, O Lord, our God.” or “Come, and with your outstretched arm redeem us.” Or, “Come, and deliver us whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.”
In the same hymnal is a “Canticle of Light and Darkness”–a group reading of prayers based on Scripture, with a line of music sung before, between and after the readings. The possible musical responses are:
–The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
–You are the light of the world; be light in our darkness, O Christ.
–O come, let us adore him, Christ, the Lord.
And here are the corporate readings (adapted from Isaiah 9:2, Isaiah 59:9-10; Psalm 139:11-12; Daniel 2:20 and I John 1:5). (R) indicates where the selected line of music is sung:
(R) We look for light, but find darkness,
for brightness, but walk in gloom.
We grope like those who have no eyes;
we stumble at noon as in the twilight. (R)
If I say, “Let only darkness cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you,
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you. (R)
Blessed be your name, O God, for ever.
You reveal deep and mysterious things;
you are light and in you is no darkness.
Our darkness is passing away
and already the true light is shining.” (R)
Are there songs you’ve sung in church, which you can weep with? Which make space for the “bad stuff” you face?