December 4, 2012

Sing to the Lord an Old Song

Source: Google Images
My favorite holiday station is the one that plays music from the '40s to the '60s. As much as I love Josh Groban's Ave Maria, it doesn't come with the memories of Frank Sinatra's version. Michael Bublé may do a fine White Christmas, but it's not the same as hearing Bing Crosby's classic. And while there are contemporary Christmas songs that I enjoy, they don't come with the depth of personal history as the songs and artists that my parents listened to when I was a child.

Listening to the older versions brings back images of my dad, my grandparents, and aunts and uncles who are long gone. In my mind's eye, they're all gathered around the tree or at the table for Christmas dinner and they're all young, healthy, and strong. I can see my aunt wrapping gifts to place under her tree. I remember my excitement when my grandparents took me to Sears to see Santa. Those older songs bring back memories of traveling to Texas to see family, arriving just in time to be tucked into bed. More than memories of the past, perhaps they're visions of the future, a tiny glimpse of heaven.

And so it is with the old hymns. While the Bible tells us over and over the importance of singing a new song, it never says to throw out the old. God wants us to recognize His mercy in new ways. He wants us to use our creativity to give a fresh perspective on our love for Him. He wants us to be so overcome with emotion for all that He has done that we can't help but burst out in new and impromptu songs, but He doesn't want us to forget all that has come before.

Just as the older artists bring back memories of traveling to spend Christmas with family, older hymns bring back memories of traveling with the Lord. They're spiritual markers. They remind us of God's hand in our own lives, as well as in the lives of those who have sung them over the ages.

Source: Microsoft Clip Art
All Creatures of Our God and King connects us to St. Francis of Assisi, who wrote the words 800 years ago. And Can it Be That I Should Gain and Hark, the Herald Angels Sing connect us to Charles Wesley, the co-founder of Methodism.  All the Way My Savior Leads Me and Blessed Assurance remind us that, despite her blindness, Fanny Crosby wrote more than 8,000 hymns extolling the grace of God. The older hymns connect us not only to ancestors we never knew, but to all of the brothers and sisters in Christ who sang those same songs to praise God. They are spiritual markers not only for individual believers, but for the church.

So, by all means, sing to the Lord a new song...just don't forget the old.

Until next time,

Sing to the Lord a new song. sing to the Lord, all the earth. ~ Psalm 96:1


December 2, 2012

More Than a Season

Source: Microsoft Clip Art
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and as we sang the familiar songs in worship to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, I had a bit of an epiphany. If we believe that Jesus is coming again - and as Christ's followers, we do believe He is coming again - why do we limit ourselves to anticipating His arrival to the four Sundays before Christmas?

Shouldn't we always be watching for His coming? Shouldn't we live in a constant state of anticipation? Shouldn't we be filled with hope all the time?

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions, but I'm making one right here and now. I will not limit the spirit of hope and anticipation to a season. I will live my life in constant hope and anticipation, watching and waiting for the return of Christ, because He is coming again.

Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel's strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart

Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne

Until next time,

"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." ~ Matthew 24:42