Creative Cries

Many of you expressed kind words last Sunday about the lyrics I wrote for our Advent theme, which we will be singing to the tune of What Child is This? There are more verses coming each week, which I’ll include below. For now I wanted to give a little more context for what I wrote, and also pass along an invitation for you all to do your own creative work. 

When conversations about Advent began happening a few months ago, Joel mentioned a very loose idea of building upon the question Isaiah asks in one of the lectionary readings, “What shall I cry?”  He pointed out that each of the Advent readings for this new lectionary had prophets and other figures wrestling with that question even if they weren’t asking it as directly as Isaiah. 

This loose theme grabbed my attention.

In this season of waiting and watching, of hope suffused with longing, many of us are asking that same question in some form or another. How shall we cry for justice in the face of so much violence? How shall we mourn and lament with honesty and vulnerability? What shouts of hope, peace, joy, and love can we articulate? 

Before we can ask “What child is this?” we get to sit with the question, “What shall I cry?” 

The connection of these two questions inspired me to try to write new lyrics that would draw on the images and contexts of the prophets from each of the passages while also connecting with the weekly Advent themes of hope, peace, joy, and love. Each of the passages contains such vibrant imagery. Isaiah speaks of rough mountain ways and fading flowers, Jeremiah offers comfort to a people in exile longing for home, Ezra leads the people during a time of rebuilding when sorrow and joy intermingle, and much later in time, John the Baptist begins to prepare the way for one even greater. 

I enjoy a good puzzle, and figuring out how to use these images and stories in a structured lyrical way forced me to think deeply about them, considering what was most important, how changing a specific word to match a rhyme scheme might alter the meaning for better or for worse (or for completely new revelations), or how to honor the context of the passage while connecting to the present. All of these kinds of questions and ways of engaging with the scriptures and stories of our tradition are a way of doing theology that excites and inspires me. This is the kind of “play” we are trying to encourage our children to do during Sunday School this year, and I am extending that invitation to all of us. 

As you sit with the question, “What shall I cry?” this season, what creative responses are bubbling up inside of you? Even if poetry or music or art aren’t your things, how can our very lives be a creative response to God’s Spirit moving in and through us as we cry hope, peace, joy, and love?

[The full lyrics to What Shall I Cry? can be found HERE.]