Day Fifteen: The Song of The Spirit

Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11
Luke 1:46b-55
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8,19-28

Over the second week of Advent, we encountered a God who longs to break open the way of Right and Whole living for us and to lead us into the light, the space, the zest that life with God is all about.

It may seem increasingly difficult to hold onto the gifts of sufficiency, hospitality, and eternity that we have received as our footsteps quicken with the countdown to Christmas but our daily Scripture readings urge us to keep seeking the Son; to take a breath with the Spirit in the midst of the busyness …

… and remember that the Good News of God with us is the promise of God’s power and presence transforming the ordinary, the every day; even the busy day into blessing ….

This week we awaken to the song of the Spirit:

bursting forth from the prophet Isaiah – a powerful proclamation
of good news to the poor
and healing to the heartbroken;
of freedom to the captive
and pardon to all prisoners;
of comfort to those in mourning
and favour to the least …

… the exaltation of a young virgin’s troubled heart set free to glorify the Lord and rejoice in God, her Saviour, for showing such care to a humble, simple servant and making her the most fortunate woman on earth …

inspiring the apostle Paul to write during times of imprisonment and persecution to be joyful and give thanks in all that happens …

truth-telling through John the Baptist concerning the Light that was coming into the world so that all could be clean, new, free.

The song of the Spirit:
… an overture of love thrummed by the morning’s sunrise,
accompanied by mountain-creaks and river gurgles,
the cheeky chirps of the blackbird in the garden,
the wind’s playful passage through the trees …

… an invitation to discern through
the cacophony of car horns, the press of people, the agenda of tasks, the juggling of roles

crotchets of compassion,
minims of mercy,
breath marks and breaks,
caesura (in which time is not counted),
accents of grace …

… an ancient melody full of promise and  of longing, which is finding fulfilment even in this present moment.

Read again the words of Isaiah (61:10):

“The Lord makes me very happy;
all that I am rejoices in my God.
He has covered me with clothes of salvation
and wrapped me with a coat of goodness,
like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding,
like a bride dressed in jewels.”

Sit for some time in silence, becoming aware of the Spirit with and within in ….

Then, when you are ready, write your own song of praise beginning with the words, “The Lord makes me very happy; all that I am rejoices in God. He has ….”

Lifesong – Psalm 40:1-11

Years ago, a quirky TV character, Ally McBeal, made a lasting impression on me when her new therapist suggested that the first step to regaining her confidence was finding a song theme for her life. I decided in that moment that I needed one too: wonderful words and an uplifting tune that would pick me up when I was feeling down and remind me of what was most important in my life.

Fortunately, as I have aged matured grown, my life song has evolved too.

In my 20’s, Chesney Hawkes helped me hold onto my uniqueness with I am the one and only. In my 30’s as I candidated for ministry, it was Nichole Nordeman who reminded me to be brave. Just last year, Matt Redman set me singing the 10000 reasons I have to bless the Lord with certainty and joy.

But in Psalm 40:3, the poet king David reveals the deep yearning of God to set a new song in our hearts.

This new song is based on the assurance of what God has done and the certainty of the marvelous things that God is still to do.

You, Lord God, have done
    many wonderful things,
and you have planned
    marvelous things for us.
    No one is like you!
I would never be able to tell
    all you have done.                                  ~ verse 5 (CEV)

One of the remarkable gifts of growing older is the wealth of evidence that our life’s experience provides us with concerning God’s presence and protection in times of turmoil and trouble. With each hard thing that we encounter and come through – bruised but still beloved, oftentimes stronger and wiser – blessings of faith are added that God walks with and, indeed, often carries us through the muck and miry clay that life so often throws our way.

Each moment of grace, every experience of salvation becomes a line, a note, in a new song of praise that informs our expectations concerning the future; for if God has been faithful in the past, surely we can be set free to face the future less fearfully.

Unfortunately, however, there are other voices that seek to drown out this new song.

Voices of temptation: the false promises of money, sex, and power that lead us in the wrong direction despite oftentimes good intentions; that temporarily assauge our doubts, our fears, our insecurities without addressing the underlying issues of our shadow selves; that provide an illusion of firmer ground from which to speak and be and act until it all gives way.

You bless all of those
    who trust you, Lord,
    and refuse to worship idols
    or follow false gods.                          ~ verse 4 (CEV)

But also voices of religious legalism and rigidity that make love conditional: good and proper sounding practices and procedures that make us feel a little too unworthy to walk with a holy God until we’ve got our behavior under control; or church-imposed demands to give, to serve, to share in a certain manner or at a certain level in order to truly belong.

Sacrifices and offerings
    are not what please you;
    gifts and payment for sin
    are not what you demand.
But you made me willing
    to listen and obey.                           ~ verse 6 (CEV)

Yet it is God himself/herself who makes us worthy, who makes us willing, who gives us this new song to sing.

And it’s important that we sing our new song until it resonates outwards – throughout the world.

A song has no meaning, no purpose, unless it is sung. And when one person starts singing, it is amazing how quickly others start to sing along. If the lyrics are simple enough, even those who have never heard it before are soon humming too.

And how simple is the Psalmist’s refrain?
Our Lord always helps!
Our Lord is kind.
He is faithful and caring,
and he saves us.

When your people worshiped,
you know I told them,
    “Our Lord always helps!”
When all your people met,
    I did not keep silent.
I said, “Our Lord is kind.
    He is faithful and caring,
    and he saves us.”                          ~ verses 9 and 10 (CEV)

The voices on the rise in our world today – particularly on the political front – are singing untruths and half-truths to advance agendas of hatred and suspicion, of greed and self-gain, of ostracism and self-preservation at any cost.

“Let’s make ourselves great again” will resound through the nations unless we provide an alternate song: “all glory to the God who has pity on us. May your love and your faithfulness keep us secure.”