November 30, 2020

We Need a Little Christmas

Throughout all of December, each of my daily devotional posts will include a Christmas song—nearly all of them sacred in nature. So today, I'm posting a secular preview that expresses what many of us are feeling during the 2020 pandemic:
We've grown a little leaner
Grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder
Grown a little older
We need a little music
Need a little laughter

The Darkness before Dawn

Do not be silent, O God of my praise. For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They beset me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, even while I make prayer for them. So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
Ps. 109:1-5
I am moved today to meditate on an affirmation of faith used by Scotland's Iona Community:
We believe that God is present
in the darkness before dawn;
in the waiting and uncertainty
where fear and courage join hands,
conflict and caring link arms,
and the sun rises over barbed wire.
We believe in a with-us God
who sits down in our midst

November 29, 2020

Advent 1 Worship

Today we light the Advent candle of hope, and the message is about the difference between wishing and hoping. Music includes Bach's Savior of the Nations, Come (organ instrumental), a soloist singing O Come, O Come, Immanuel with guitar accompaniment, and a Christmas postlude on the lap harp. Here is the order found on the video at the bottom of the page:
  • 00:00 Chimes
  • 00:29 Prélude: Nun komm der Heiden Heiland
  • 02:17 Welcome
  • 02:57 Directions: How to Jazz Up Your Advent Wreath
  • 04:52 Advent Wreath: Lighting of the Candle of Hope
  • 06:15 Song: O Come, O Come, Immanuel
  • 08:05 Scripture Reading: Lamentations 3.21-26

Weary of All Trumpeting

Hugo Distler in 1941 at the age of 32.

O grant us help against the foe, for human help is worthless.
Ps. 108:12
As I meditate on this verse this morning, I am led to think of Hugo Distler. Distler was a 25-year-old German musician when he joined the Nazi party in 1933—the same year Hitler came to power. Though his real commitment to the movement might be debated, it cannot be denied that because of his outward loyalty to the Third Reich, he was offered phenomenal career advancement throughout his short life.

One such opportunity came to him in 1938 when the German government commissioned Distler to write music glorifying the Anschluss (the union of Germany and Austria). The words paired with the tune he composed were, of course, celebratory and nationalistic in nature.

At the height of his fame as a musician and conductor, Distler took his own

November 28, 2020

The Tail End of Infinite

For your love is higher than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Ps. 108:4

There are two principle Hebrew nouns at work here, and either of them might be translated differently than what's found in the NRSV. The first one, חֶסֶד, which is translated as love, might better be rendered as either kindness or faithfulness. Old translations often use mercy (such as by Matthew Henry below). With the second one, אֶמֶת, I feel the NRSV did an even poorer job. Instead of faithfulness, firmness or truth would've been a much better option (once again, see below).

Matthew Henry explained this verse this way, which, though a bit unscientific in its scope, certainly works for me:
We cannot see further than the heavens and clouds; whatever we see of God's mercy and truth there is still more to be seen... in the other world.
In other words, what we see of God's kindness and truth are but the tip of