By Jerome Malek
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” Psalm 98:4
From the beginning of time God’s creation has manifested the glory of God. The mystery and splendor of the universe cries out in joyful sounds and majestic beauty testifying to the transcendent nature of the Creator.
God’s people down through the ages have proclaimed God’s praises. Now it is our turn to offer our praise and worship. God is revealed in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth to whom we celebrate in churches throughout the world.
Music has always played a major role in the celebration of the birth of Christ. Composers, poets, and other artists have endeavored to capture the joy of the coming of Immanuel (God with us) as not only creator, but as redeemer.
Too splendid for speech but ripe for a song:
the wonders of God to whom we belong!
What tune can we sing? What rich chords can we play
to honor the potter who made us from clay?
The swell of earth’s praise shall build to a blast
of trumpets and drums when God comes at last
to hear if our lives, like the heavens above,
are filled with the music of justice and love.
Alert to your notes that dance in the heart
we promise, O God, that we’ll sing our part
and pray that the song which your song shall inspire
will lead every nation to join in your choir.
Thomas H. Troeger
Copyright to Oxford University Press, Inc. 1985
Assigned to Oxford University Press 2010
Reproduced by Permission of CopyCat Music Licensing, LLC
Bob Oxford University Press
All Rights Reserved
The offering this evening will support the work of Francis and Missy Angalla with Restoring Voices Ministry in Kampala, Uganda. The purpose of Restoring Voices is to nurture and develop musical and artistic abilities in refugees in Uganda, so they experience God’s restorative hope and grow into their full potential.
Restoring Voices Ministry is a program designed to enhance emotional healing and holistic transformation in refugee students as they learn skills through the arts. Through teaching art, dance, and music, Restoring Voices seeks to provide refugees the opportunity to develop their talents, potentially allowing the students to use music or art vocationally to open up doors for financial self-sustainability in the future.
Learn more at RestoringVoices.com.
By Bob Morrison
Who can really sing? Well, at first thought, I was not the best choice for this scripture or so I thought. That rascally Randy Edwards picked me for this verse knowing it was a challenge for me. But even with my untrained screeching, I know a good voice when I hear it – and the best one belonged to my grandmother (or maybe yours!). At 81 years of age, the doctors told us she had only months to live so we did what countless families have done before us and moved her to a nursing home (no Hospice back then) near the family so all could be with her. Her music could be heard the moment you entered the building. She was beginning to lose her eyesight and hearing, yet her voice was sweet and gentle and filled with the hymns of my childhood. In the beginning of her stay there, this preacher’s wife played the piano for others and led the singing – no one there needed a hymnal. She would tell us, “I don’t know why my Jesus hasn’t come to get me.” My voice was never good, but I came to love the music because she did. When the day came that she left us for that heavenly choir, the music was still in the nursing home . . . and it never left our hearts. We buried her on her 100th birthday!
By Garrett Vickrey
If you were to put the book of Isaiah to a musical score there would be a whole rest between chapters 39 and 40. If this sacred book were a piece of music. There would be a gaping silence as the work moved between these chapters. The lament of the brass instruments would fade into silence as the minor riff gave way to the nothingness of rest.
The silence of the rest would house the anxiety of the people in exile. The silence would give voice to their uncertainty as to what would happen to them.
Isaiah 40 would begin with a sustained note. A note of hope coming from nowhere. Middle C surprises. A hopeful note. Add in the 4th and the 5th and now a joyful chord returns to our ears. The anxious rest is broken by harmonic hope.
“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.
Out of silence and brokenness, perceived chaos, God is speaking. God is creating again out of nothing.
A way appears in the wilderness. A straight path home. Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain made low.
The glory of God is being revealed. All this from rest.
From quiet. From nothing.
In that rest are the seeds of the next measure. Without silence music is indistinguishable. Time and tone team together to draw us into melody and harmony. Even in rest there is a dynamic at work we cannot fully understand until the next moment. But, if we trust the composer we have hope that the beauty of the score will be revealed. And it’s the anticipation of that revelation that is almost as exciting as the revelation itself.
Frederick Buechner writes, “The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.”
For now we wait. And in the terrible hope of our joyous anxiety we wait knowing that the end of this season redefines the contour and even the chaos of the present.
By Randy Edwards
Hear the ancient text, which is the basis of one of the Sanctuary Choir’s favorite Advent anthems, composed by Douglas Wagner:
Thou Shalt Know Him
Thou shalt know Him when he comes,
Not by any din of drums,
Nor His manners, nor His airs,
Nor by anything He wears.
Thou shalt know Him when He comes,
Not by a crown nor by a gown,
But His coming known shall be,
By the holy harmony
Which His coming makes in thee.
Thou shalt know him when He comes.
The advent of Christ might have seemed just an ordinary birth had it not been for all the angels partying in the nearby skies. What was usually a dark, quiet proscenium in the hill country surrounding Bethlehem exploded as angels appeared on the horizon and overhead, creating quite a stir!
I wish I could confidently say the angels sang beautiful choral music as they made their entrances; it seems that such an event would be worthy of high church anthems accompanied by approximately forty acres of violins, oboes, trumpets, and at least a dozen sets of timpani. However scripture does not say anything about music … reporting that the angels glorified and praised God, “saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace …’”
Well shucks, couldn’t the angels have sung something to celebrate this amazing event? “Happy Birthday to You” or something?
Although we often compliment a good singer by saying, “She sings like an angel,” it is unclear whether or not angels can actually make music: sing, play trumpets (blowing a trumpet and playing one are two different things), strum harps, or crash cymbals. I have a theory that might serve as an explanation as to why.
Do angels feel pain and joy in the same way we human beings do? That we do not know. If they are not subjected to the same range of emotions as we are, then that might give us a clue as to why we never hear heavenly music wafting from these heavenly hosts.
Music as we know it is an earthly human phenomenon which has the capacity to evoke and invoke heavenly qualities. Any decent composer will tell you that some of her/his best music is conceived, shaped and refined in the crucible of pain. Do you know a composer who is always happy and never sad? If so, there’s probably not much demand for his music.
We don’t know if angels are emotional creatures or not. Angels may or may not be musicians, but we are not angels. We are a very human offspring, created in the creative image of God.
So, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, the undying presence of God embracing us, the overwhelming love of Christ that compels us to go and tell, the promise of eternal life that begins right here and now – with the gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love, how can we possibly keep from singing?
By Daniel Zamora
“When the trumpets sounded…the wall collapsed” Joshua 6:20
“…David would take his harp and play. Then Relief would come to Saul” 1 Samuel 16:23
“Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang… Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud…for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” 2 Chronicles 5:13-14
Every year in June, youth choirs from all over the United States attend the Nation’s Capital Festival of Youth Choirs. I had the opportunity of going this year and not only to accompany some anthems but to admire how youth voices could make such beautiful music together opening their mouths at the conductor’s cue.
From the moment the festival began, choir directors and counselors noticed the first rehearsal went beyond their expectations. Each choir member was prepared knowing his/her respective parts and many were ready to sing from memory. At the end of the second day, I was not sure about the remaining practices because the group sang so well.
Towards the end of the last day of rehearsals, they received an unexpected visit from the manager of one of the hotels across National City Christian Church, where the practices had been held. She wanted to listen to the choir in order to invite her hotel guest to attend. Randy Edwards indicated they would sing a few short excerpts from the festival music. The manager sat in the choir loft in front of the choir. Since there was no mention of any specific order, I got closer to the front to be available for accompanying.
They began singing “E’en so I love Thee, And in Thy praise will sing” from Jane Marshall’s anthem My Eternal King. Within a few seconds, the sanctuary was filled with sounds produced by these teenagers and I could not resist to walk in front of them to observe the visitor’s face but as I began doing it, the music became so intense that I had to stop, then went back to my seat and listen while tears flooded my eyes. Yes, the power of music had changed my mind, soul and spirit.