On Singing Songs to Ourselves and to God
“Do not be afraid…” -Luke 1: 13 & 30
I wonder if you have noticed how in chapter one of Luke’s account of the Good News the words, “Do not be afraid,” appear twice. It is almost as if this primal experience of being human begs to be unavoidably addressed right from the start.
In each of these instances the counsel comes as a result of the Holy intersecting the ordinary in ways extraordinary. There is awe, wonderment, and even terror all wrapped up in these encounters of Zechariah and Mary. There is a profound sense that their experiences have opened them up to a world larger than they could ever have imagined.
You likely know from your own experience that there is another form of fear that operates for us as human beings. It is not the fear born of awe at the encounter with the Holy. It is instead the fear that is created by humans over and against each other. It often expresses itself in arrangements of power fueled by greed and a fabricated distrust of “the other”. This kind of fear has its own capacity for multiplication as narratives about “the other” get rehearsed and acted on over time. The energy of this fear has a demonic quality of diminishment which we know persists in the life of the human family.
But this is not the end of the story. The fulfillment of God’s story is actually hidden in the beginnings of our sacred text, as an alternative narrative of wonder and delight is revealed. It affirms that no one is too old nor too young to be a carrier of the story of God’s unfolding love, an agent of healing in ways absolutely surprising, an answer to the fear which the world often worships.
The question is: To which story will any of us give our lives? What will be the song of soul that we repeat with such frequency that the story becomes the prayer that forms us? Will it be a song of fear that diminishes ourselves or “the other”? Or will it be a song that delights in what God can do in the most extraordinary of times in and through the varied fabric of the human family?
Some may say that it is not dealing with reality to sing songs to ourselves in such a season as this when we can’t sing songs together. But Luke tells a different story. Luke reminds us that it is in such seasons where all seems lost that God’s most powerful work is done. And it is done in and through people who consent (not knowing how it will all work out) with words like, “…let it be with me according to your word” or in songs like “My soul magnifies the Lord…”.
One of the most powerful ways to live into awe is to notice God’s in-breaking in whatever way it comes to you and then sing a song inside yourself over and over again until it moves from your head, into your heart, and then out into the world in a spirit that “repeats the sounding joy”!
In this season, one of the things I am missing most is singing in person with others. There is a kind of narrowing of spirit that threatens to command my whole attention and tempt me toward the fear which the world fabricates. But then I remember, I have been practicing Advent and Christmas carols my whole life for such a time as this.
Because the fear that diminishes does not get to win the day or the world. That is reserved for the awe and wonder that comes from remembering God has reframed everything by entering into the world anew in Jesus Christ, shedding a spirit that is stronger and more resilient than any fear the world can fabricate. It is the good news. You can trust it with your life. So, let that sacred song take up residence in your soul and then release it! Advent blessings and Merry Christmas to you all!