The problem with assuming we know the details is that often reality differs significantly. Then it becomes easy to question our calling.
These hymns, like the psalms, come from or speak to different experiences – some quite specific, others more general – and they express a wide variety of feelings toward God, ranging from thanksgiving and adoration to supplication to bitter grief. The hymn I came upon that had a reference to Jesus weeping was under the heading of “For a Child in the Small-Pox.” In the midst of what would have been an agonizing time for the parents as they prayed through tears that God might bring healing to their child, Charles offered lyrics that help us to embrace this sort of grief and to not hold back in pouring out our hearts to God.
It took me a while to realize that I needed to sing the Old Testament so I was ready to sing the New. That is, we need to recognize how our world got lost; only then will we understand why God sent his Son to find it. I had to remember that we humans have needed Jesus from the time we stumbled out of Eden, and that our hearts have longed for him ever since Eve heard that her seed would crush the serpent’s head. When Wesley prays, “Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,” he is reminding us that our longing for Jesus is as old as the human heart.
So, while we can and should sing of Christ’s return throughout the year, Advent presents a key opportunity to declare with clarity this crucial doctrine in our faith. And as Wesleyans we have a gem in Charles’ hymn, “Lo! He Comes With Clouds, Descending.”
Change happens, renewal and revival come not because we have designed it, or wanted it, or worked for it, but because God in his infinite grace and unfettered mercy, in his own time and according to his design, brings new life to persons, to congregations, to denominations, to movements, and ministries.
Over the past few months, having been to the cross, visited the empty tomb, and celebrated the Resurrection, let us now live in awareness of the sin for which we will never be crucified.
When I came back to this story of Jacob wrestling the stranger at the River Jabbok, I saw something that I had never noticed before. That is, Jacob is like Prometheus, in the Greek myth. Prometheus stole the fire from heaven and brought it down to human beings so that we could be like gods.
It was in the forsakenness of that hour that Dorsey chipped away at the piano and wrote, “Precious Lord, take my hand …” In the sorrow of the desolation and flood of his loss, the song that inspired Dr. King was the dove that Dorsey released in search of dry land, the flight of hope. It was his blues: “I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.” It was his gospel: “Lead me on, let me stand.”
When we refuse to be silent we are saying that we have nothing left to learn or that God has nothing left to say to us.
“From very early on Christians buried their dead near their places of worship. Where others placed their dead outside of cities and avoided such sites, Christians often celebrated the anniversaries of the death of their martyrs with the Lord’s Supper. Oftentimes this celebration was held at the place where the martyr was buried. Soon, many churches included the bones of the martyrs within the church building. Since death was not the final word about our bodily existence, it didn’t need to be something fearful. Christians understood that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord and there was no place where the Lord was more present than in the community gathered for worship. The understanding was that in Christ all are one.”