It’s a good thing the mountains and the hills will burst into song because we certainly won’t. This blog post is a post of lament. I am sad and increasingly so. It’s a sadness that just won’t stay away for long. There’s too many reasons for its certain return.
I stood outside a very important city hospital one night in late december. On my way home from work I came across their Christmas carol event around a large handsome tree with dazzling lights and stars lazer projected onto the victorian brick walls behind. Visually, all the magic was in place. And visually is where the magic ended. The softly spoken cleric – anglican – lead us to sing Once in Royal David’s City. A local children’s choir sweetly and gingerly sang the first verse and then the small brass ensemble joined in. This is the traditional arrangement for such a carol. And there at that point the traditional arrangement ended. One would have expected, traditionally, the gathered throng to join in with gusto – singing of the second verse.
But not this throng. Hardly a peep. Maybe it was the cool of the winter evening or some other kind of coolness. Maybe it was the hum of the passing traffic just yards away. Or maybe it was the fact that this throng was somehow too small to generate a sound – what with it being only a few dozen short of 200 people. I know! 200 people – that used to be a lot. Eventhough we were outside a hospital – that’s an average of 2 lungs per chest. 400 lungs give or take. Anyway I was gutted, still am but unfortunately it was an all too familiar feeling for me. So with my spirit waining and my blood pressure rising I disappeared into the night.
Carols can be the most wonderful of praise songs to sing. Such Father, Son and Spirit honouring songs lift my heart to soaring from late November to January every year. I am resigned to living in a post-Christian world so I had modest expectations of the 200 strong throng. But next to nothing from them? Really? “Let’s not bother to sing the carols at a public outdoor event we show up for!” I just never got that memo.
But I should have seen this coming. If the faithful, the believers have for the most part withdrawn from the sung life of the church then what hope is there for the agnostic at best and atheistic at worst, to throw their breath behind carols celebrating the One for whom David’s royal city played humble host.
We, in the church, to an extent which is concerning seem to have given up the ghost on singing heartily to our great and glorious God. I spent a year in a wonderful fellowship south of the equator where for mysterious reasons, on our worst day (me included) could not or would not sing for toffee. Toffee was never actually offered. Coffee was. The best coffee in the antipodes.
Singing is an artery of life for the christian. Is anyone happy? Let them sing – songs of praise (James 5:13) Singing is the cry of the heart in exaltation to its Maker. Singing is a discipline to be embraced. A muscle to be exercised and built up. Like prayer to God – it’s not a personality or preference thing, it’s a life of worship thing. Songs and singing to the Lord is such a wonderful gift from Him to Him. From Him to Him through us. Let’s do the ‘us’ bit. Start small but have in mind trajectory of great expression in sung worship. Join in with your brothers and sisters. Let the children see that singing is not something you grow out of but something you grow into. Have a think about this. Sing songs of delight, gladness, lament and ache (when they get dusted off occasionally).
I am resigned that I live in a post-christian world but please let’s try bit by bit to push back against a post-christian church. Join the mountains and the hills (Isaiah 55:12) and burst forth into song before our God.