matterofprayer blog post for Saturday, December 14, 2013
I hear Christmas music on the cd player as I write this. Choral, a capella. Complex chords and harmonies. These aspects of the music make my heart sing. The winning combination of beautiful music and meaningful words helps my heart to worship, too.
Since I am a classically trained musician and have a bachelor’s degree in church music, music has been and still is an important feature of my life. My avocation and my deep joy, as well as an aid to worship. Sometimes music can bring me to tears, and the next minute can lead me to worship and praise. Especially at this time of year.
A great deal of Christmas music was written with the church in mind, or at least, based on the Gospel accounts in Luke and Matthew. (I know there are some fun songs, secular songs, but I’d like to focus instead on the sacred music.) Composers and songwriters in many diverse cultures have tried their hands at writing Christmas music—and Advent music, too. Diverse songs like “Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming” (German, Michael Praetorius, 1609) to “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy” (Traditional West Indian Carol, popularized by Harry Belafonte in 1958).
Different cultures portray the Holy Family in contexts that are familiar to them, too. Many people are familiar with the olive wood nativity scenes, carved by Palestinian Christians and imported all over the world today. But I’ve also seen a Kenyan nativity set with animals native to the Kenya bush. And a Peruvian nativity with everyone dressed in traditional Peruvian garb. And—to me—the familiar Advent calendars with the northern European features.
One more recent Christmas carol comes from the mid 20th century. The words by Wihla Hutson evoke the differences in how children all over the world see the baby Jesus. “Lily white,” “bronzed and brown,” “almond-eyed,” “dark as they.” The Baby Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. He was born into this world to identify with us. And we can identify with Him, just as much.
This Advent period is a period of waiting for the coming of the Baby in Bethlehem. However we may see Him, however the Holy Family is presented in our culture or setting or church tradition, we are to wait with eagerness. With quiet and prayer. With expectation in our hearts. And in one of my favorite ways, with music to assist us in this waiting time.
Let’s pray. Dear God, Gracious Lord, this Advent waiting time is a time of expectation, but it’s also a time of preparation. Help me to prepare my heart to receive You. Forgive me for closing the door on others who don’t see You in the same way as I see You. Forgive me for being so narrow-minded and thoughtless. Thank You that You came into this world for everyone. For each child, for each adult, for each senior. Help me to look on those who are different from me with Your eyes. Emmanuel, God with us, all of us. Thank You, Jesus.
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