Monday, December 14, 2009

3rd Sunday in Advent: Listening for God's Song

As we enter the third week of Advent, we have just heard an invitation in yesterday's first reading from Zephania to shout and sing for joy:  "Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel!  Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!" But did  you notice the end of that reading?  God will also sing: "The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals." God sings?

I think most of us easily envision ourselves singing praise to God - and probably do it on a regular basis in worship. Less easy is to imagine what God's song would be like.  Even Tolkein, in the elaborate mythology , The Silmarillion, which he wrote supporting The Lord of the Rings, when he envisioned the creation or the world taking place as a result of the song of the angel-like holy beings, the Ainur, did not dare to have Eru Iluvatar, his version of the supreme being, sing.

As a parish cantor and choir singer myself, the question of God's song is of great interest. Does my own song call forth a similar response from God? If so, the notion of worship as a dialog is key. The song then becomes not just us singing AT God, but singing WITH God.

What kind of song?  " one sings at festivals" - this is the clue as to the nature of God's song.  It reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Son, in which the father welcomes his son home with a festival, complete with fatted calf. This is the God of celebration, whose joy in us when we come to him whole-heartedly knows no bounds. 

When do we shout and sing to God in such a way?

...when we truly worship in joy (and are not just going through the motions)
...when we celebrate the beauty of creation
...when we give thanks with all our hearts for blessings
...when we approach God in true contrition
...when we receive Eucharist and become one with Christ and each other
...when we celebrate the goodness of life
....when.... (fill in the blank)

But I don't think God's song is always necessarily one of joy. God is more complex. God is not the eternal big "happy face" guy.  Since God, through incarnation into humanity in Christ, embodies all that it means to be human. Sometimes God's song must be a dirge of grief when God grieves for us or with us, or a lullaby when we need comfort in the midst of the sorrow of life. When our song is sad, so must God's be sad. (After all, Jesus wept at the news of the death of Lazarus, so the Trinity knows the nature of human sorrow.)  Whenever our song is one of loss or loneliness or isolation, God hums in a still, small voice, waiting for each of us to get to the point when we can once again respond to God's outreaching love. My guess is that God never actually stops singing.

Zephaniah's call to rejoice is a challenge to us to find our song of joy in the midst of a dark world full of sorrows. It calls us to envision a world perfected in joy and to sing as if that world is already accomplished - because indeed it is - in God's time, the Day of the Lord already is. This is not a case of  'fake it until we make it." Instead, it is a call to see through God's eyes, that the Reign of God is already a reality, perfected in God's mind, existing in eternity, and that some day we will experience it as God does. God is already singing. We just can't hear it yet.

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