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?