category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 19

Thursday, December 16

Psalm 80: 1–7; Jeremiah 31: 31–43 Hebrews 10: 10–18

Much like the early Christians, we are living in a world that needs reassurance. As we begin this Advent season after another year of challenges, we need reassurance to come from somewhere and to impact everywhere. Advent gives to me, and many of us, this feeling of reassurance. Advent calls us not only to prepare for Jesus who came, but it also invites us to remember that Jesus is coming again. As a matter of fact, the Bible is full of such moments of invitation and for me, Advent is one of the most prevalent. Shepherds, wise men, angels—we are all invited to see the child lying in a manger, this One who will be the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

In the Bible, reassurance is displayed in acts of service, in traditions, in time with family, and even in singing. As a music educator and choral director, singing personally strikes a note for me. In my years as a young singer, I grew up performing with the Greensboro Youth Chorus. We would frequently sing in December with an adult choir, Bel Canto Company. One year one of the joint selections was Richard Marlow’s Advent Responsory. I had no clue what a responsory was as a twelve-year-old, but to me this was a cool song. It is composed for soprano soloist, treble chorus, male quartet, and a full SATB chorus, often singing at the same time. There is a line in the middle of the selection that always captivated me. It comes from early on in Psalm 80 when the soloist sings, “Stir up thy strength, O Lord, and come.” All of the other voices in the different choirs provide varying echoes of the word “come.” In fact, the word “come” is sung over twenty-five times throughout the work. The imagery of that line resonated with me as did the simple invitation to “come.”

Jesus is the One who did come through. We often make promises or covenants with God. We always try to see these through, but sometimes we fall short on our promises. Advent is a time, however, when we are reassured that God came through for us. He made us, knows all about us, and loves us unconditionally in spite of our faults. The covenant that he made with the people of Israel still protects us and guides us if we keep his law in our hearts and minds (Jeremiah 31:33).

Wherever this Advent season calls you to go, may you take with you the reminder that God has made a covenant with you and always holds a place for you inside his kingdom.

Eric Johnson
Assistant Professor of Music Education

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