Advent Devotional: Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabelle!
Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabelle!
Bring a torch, to the stable run
Christ is born. Tell the folk of the village
Jesus is born and Mary’s calling.
Ah!* Ah! beautiful is the Mother!
Ah! Ah! beautiful is her child
It is wrong when the child is sleeping,
It is wrong to talk so loud.
Silence, now as you gather around,
Lest your noise should waken Jesus.
Hush! Hush! see how he slumbers;
Hush! Hush! see how fast he sleeps!
Softly now unto the stable,
Softly for a moment come!
Look and see how charming is Jesus,
Look at him there, His cheeks are rosy!
Hush! Hush! see how the Child is sleeping;
Hush! Hush! see how he smiles in dreams!
Two things hit me about this particular song. The first lies in its words. There is interplay between hurry and quiet. We run to the stable. There is a sense of urgency to the text and the beat and music that says we NEED to get to place where we can see and behold this child. It has to happen and it has to happen now.
Then, however, we spend most of the time talking about being quiet and not waking the child and not talking so loud. What a strange turn. With bouncing step and lively beat we talk about our need to stay quiet? And while it may be it simply wishes us to “let a sleeping child lie” I can’t help but get a sense of reverence. We are peeking in on the holy. The holy of holies. “Softly now unto the stable, softly for a comment come!” It is if we are treading where we need to go but do not belong – stealing a peak at what wasn’t meant for us. We know that this is something we need to see but can’t quite comprehend… because of course we know he is smiling but not what dream he is dreaming.
Advent waiting has some of that kind of character. We hurry and we wait. We come to see but we don’t understand. We have inklings of what is occurring around us but lack the breadth of vision to see all that God is dreaming. We encounter mystery, and yet that mystery is housed in a package that is all too familiar. Ah! Ah beautiful is this scene.
On a completely different note I dare you to try to listen to this song and not dance. It’s hard… it is so clearly what it is – a dance song. On that level we can’t simply listen to this song. You have to become a part of this song. I like this song far more for what it does than it what it says. Christ as hope, as God-with-us, as “founder and perfecter of our faith” as Hebrews calls him (and yes that is totally weird and unplanned that I just quoted Hebrews two days in row) is less about what we think than what we do.
Jesus invites us to join in a dance. Yes you know that song of course – the Lord of the Dance is he. But I’m thinking as well of a scene outside of canonical scripture from an early gnostic text, the Acts of John. In that telling of the Last Supper Jesus gets his disciples to join him in a dance in which he relates that they learn what they need to learn by seeing it in him – and he teaches them to dance.
We are good at learning by teaching our minds… but sometimes that just gets it all backwards. What Jesus does is teach us to live differently – Jesus invites us to join a divine dance in which we learn to work together in a playful, life-giving, interactive way. When we dance we either learn to be in sync with one another… or we come away dazed and confused.
Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabelle! invites us to dance with the anticipation of meeting the Christ-child. A dance of hurried anticipation and hush filled reverence. Let us join the dance.