Most people know, I like to sing. Always have. Even when I thought I was more of an instrumentalist. I was always one of those kids who knew the words to stuff. All the words. Not just the first verse or stanza and refrain.
We have a strange relationship to singing in this country. Even in churches – where it’s often one of the few times the people get to genuinely participate – it is hijacked by someone with a microphone. Either “the band” or the preacher. Often the preacher does the worst part of it by allowing a sensibility to grow that says “We can’t sing all the stanzas. People don’t really like to sing, plus it will make the service go long.” Never mind that the actual timing of the elements in a worship service don’t bear that out.
As a result, we’ve lost touch with a pretty impressive body of literature and poetry.
Take these two stanzas for instance. Most everyone could manage to limp their way through the first stanza without benefit of the hymnal (or projection screen. gag.) How many even know the hymn could speak so beautifully and directly into our present day?
And you, beneath life’s crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow;
look now, for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing;
oh, rest beside the weary road
and hear the angels sing!
Comforting, poetic and inviting rest. Who doesn’t want a little invitation to rest this time of year? Rest and enjoy the beauty of a free concert. What’s not inviting about that?
I like the last stanza too as it speaks of hope and the idea of peace winning out and our getting to join the music of the spheres unreservedly. Some day, anyway.
For lo! The days are hastn’ing on,
by prophets seen of old,
when with the ever-circling years
shall come the time foretold,
when peace shall over all the earth
its ancient splendors fling,
and all the world give back the song
which now the angels sing.
Do you know the Christmas carol? Did you remember those stanzas?