I'm one of those that can hardly ever think of anything when my family asks me 'what do you want for Christmas?' But this past Advent (2020), I had a ready answer: 'a choral CD of your choice.' (Yes, I still use CDs.)
Why? Well, aside from the fact that I love choral music (my parents met in a choir so it was inevitable really...), I felt more in need of choral music than perhaps ever before. Perhaps you've felt something similar (whether choral or not) of late, and it struck me that this was a musical ramification of the frequently-made point discussed by pretty much every Zoomed-out pastor and theologian (and blogger and probably every Christian) in the past year, that as humans made in the image of a Trinitarian God, we are made to be in community, and to enjoy people's company physically.
In fact, the whole gospel message points to this! Consider the following points (the basic underlying doctrine is put in parentheses afterwards):
- We were made in the image of a relational God (Trinity)
- We were made for connection with God and in community with others (Creation)
- The human problem is one of attempting disconnection from God and very often from others – so loneliness and isolation is one of the key markers of this broken world (Sin)
- God so loved the world that He came as a physical human being in the person of Jesus to restore connection to God (Redemption)
- On the Cross, Jesus was punished for our rebellion by being decisively disconnected from God, so that we could once again be connected to God (Atonement)
- Our physicality has been ultimately dignified in the physical coming of Jesus (Incarnation) and in His bodily resurrection (Resurrection)
- We can once again be connected with God (Holy Spirit / Union with Christ)
- Our fundamental identity as a member of the body of Christ connects us to others who are so connected (Church)
All in all, it's no wonder that this time of disconnection, isolation and separation from others which Covid has generated in our society has felt so unnatural. It goes directly against the grain of creation and the core of a redeemed identity in Christ. It's no wonder that in myriad ways we have yearned for and hankered after community and connection.
And so for me, one way in which that hankering has manifested itself is in a felt need for (not just a mere, fairly arbitrary, desire for) choral music. For me, no other kind of music quite palliates the pang. There is something about choral music which reflects these ultimate realities. To hear human voices singing in harmony - ah! To me, at its best, such music speaks of the harmony-in-unity that characterises the being of our Trinitarian God; it speaks of our flesh and bones and nerves and mucous membranes exerting themselves physically (i.e. it speaks of us being physical beings); it speaks of a world in which despite brokenness and tension, there can be joy and resolution; of a world in which, despite the infinite uglinesses, there is also such beauty that it points beyond itself to something more, to another world where there is joy and peace and hope and happiness... where we will see Jesus truly 'as He is' (1 John 3:2), and be with each other in perfect harmony. Forever.
Dear friends, 'I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face' (3 John 1:14). And maybe even sing.
And in case any of you were interested, my grandparents-in-law got me two CDs from the ORA singers, and my father got me one from a Latvian choir (Swedbank Koris) singing Latvian music. I've been particularly enjoying these three tracks:
- Sicut lilium inter spinas, by Antoine Brumel. French, Renaissance, Song of Songs, sumptuous.
- Ave verum corpus (re-imagined), by Roderick Williams. English, contemporary (/ neo-Renaissance), false relations galore, lush.
- Dvēseles dziesma, by Ēriks Eševalds. Latvian, contemporary, patriotic, almost filmic, cheese, but the most delicious kind of cheese. Just allow it. Thanks.