Even The Grinch Who Stole Christmas knows the power of a song. For the Grinch, the quiet song of the Whos on Christmas morning reminded him of a deep, profound reality that: “maybe Christmas…doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” The Who’s song of Christmas joy "rises up low and then started to grow."
Fiction is fun, but the best fiction, even a short, silly story like Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, reminds the world of something true. In this case, it’s the power of a song. A song leaves the world behind and extends beyond the daily malaise that dulls our senses. It is louder and more hearable, even, than the chaos that bombards our hearts and minds. At Christmas, that is an especially precious gift. In a season better given to some quiet contemplation amidst the joyful celebration, our human hearts need music to call us back to what is central and lasting in the swirl and excitement of the extras.
When I read the Bible, it is filled with songs. In the Christmas story alone, there are at least four songs calling the world to come see what God is doing. At the time of Christ’s birth, the Jews had been waiting for hundreds of years to hear God’s voice again. He spoke to them by the prophets. He dwelt among them in his temple. And then, he was silent. During this silence the Jews became increasingly oppressed and downtrodden and by the time Jesus was born, I understand it was a very harsh and poor reality into which he came—his people under the heel of Roman rule, impoverished in body, mind and soul. Not singing. Their senses would have been dulled by a long season of waiting and hoping and longing for something that seemed impossible.
Yet when the angel appears to Zechariah and Zechariah fails to believe, his punishment is to be mute, without a voice. And when his voice is returned to him, his heart overflows not with a hasty or befuddled explanation, but with a song (Luke 1:68-79). When the angel appears to Mary, a humble and miraculously faith-filled woman, her heart responds with song (Luke 1:46-55). When God sends his great birth announcement to the shepherds, the angels announce this incredible possibility of everlasting peace with God through a song (Luke 2:14). And finally, when Simeon, the first person to see and acknowledge Christ as the one for whom they have all been waiting, sees the little baby in the temple, he sings one of the most beautiful songs in all of scripture, the nunc dimitis (Luke 2:29-32).
These songs are on my heart because we have been reflecting on Christmas this past month, but songs are everywhere. Adam’s first response upon awakening and seeing the beauty of Eve is a song. The most intimate book in the Bible, the Song of Solomon, is a song. The Psalms, which pour out every human emotion from joy to grief to anger to praise to agony, are really songs. Our God is a singing God and nothing makes him sing like this imago Dei creation of his (Zephaniah 3:17).
In India, I find I need more spaces and moments to come away from the world and into the quiet of my own heart. I live in a sizeable city in this beautiful country where the beautiful people are full to bursting with colour and light and noise and movement. It is wonderful, really, in so many ways. But there is really no reprieve from all the sounds and chaos, either. There are always honking horns, mooing cows, barking dogs, men yelling “paper” or “vegetables,” the doorbell or phone ringing for my attention. And when the din is too much or the volume is too high, I pull back into my home and turn off the phone and refuse to answer the door and turn on some music to quiet my heart and mind and to focus on the deeper truths that are somehow lost in the madness.
This year I have been drawn to songs that are parts of larger, collective works. I like the songs that sing about sorrow as well as joy. I like the ones that don’t have all the answers, but still sing “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” I have deeply loved Andrew Peterson’s “The Burning Edge of Dawn,” and Sandra McCraken’s “Psalms,” because both are born out of significant suffering and both lead us back to the feet of Jesus. Their songs call me out of my own chaos or sorrow or self-focus to focus my heart and soul-eyes on the one who not only knows, but writes my story and writes it so well. I would recommend both of these albums to anyone in middle of pain or finally breathing in the stillness of its wake.
Finally, a beautiful song by Sandra McCracken called “Come To Me,” #6 on the Rain for Roots Album The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like This, has actually changed the way I see God this year. Rain for Roots writes songs for children, and their albums are free to listen to on bandcamp.org. This one in particular is very good and I hum it throughout the day. We sing it often at family devotions or at bedtime. I sing it to the girls when they are too full of emotions like hurt or anger or disappointment to really be able to express their hearts. It calms the baby and even the two year old can learn and sing the words by heart. It ministers to the hearts of each of them as well as their mother. I imagine my father’s ample lap and comforting arms and his well-articulated rhythms of grace welcoming me into rest, even in the midst of my hectic life with little ones. I can’t always come away from the chaos. My home is often chaotic. My life is loud with five children and a dog and a full home and the gift of community. But I can learn to come to him, and I can learn to walk with him and I can learn to rest in his rest, no matter what things may come.
The words are simple, but they point to deep rest in our Saviour.
Come to me. Walk with me.
Learn the rhythms of my grace.
Come to me. I have all you need.
Learn to rest even while you are awake.
Are you tired? Are you worried?
Worn out from the day?
Have you been in a hurry?
I will slow the pace.
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