Pastor Darian's Musings

Pastor Darian's Musings


The Advent Gospel of Two Christians: "Almost There"

When my sister and I were growing up, we listened to a lot of contemporary Christian music.

One Christmas, we received monogrammed cassette tape holders for our collections. Yes, those really did exist. They were foot-long, rectangular bins with tape-sized dividers. Covered in cloth with a handle on the end, a zipper around the top kept everything in place. Hers said VALERIE, and mine said DARIAN. There is no better security system for a Christian cassette collection than to emblazon the children’s names on them. We carried them very proudly, along with our walk-mans, on road trips.

One tape that I put in my holder every December was Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas, which included the songs, “Breath of Heaven” and “Grown Up Christmas List.” Nearby it was Michael English’s self-titled album. On "side one" of that tape was the original recording of “Mary, Did You Know?”

Twenty-plus years later, DARIAN’s cassette tape holder no longer exists. I carried it until the fabric unraveled, and the first “A” came off, leaving me with the name of “D-RIAN.” Thankfully, the songs still exist and thrive on radio stations and in choir cantatas. Some people would even describe "Breath of Heaven" and "Mary, Did You Know?" as “new” Christmas songs. I have trouble thinking of anything from the cassette holder as “new.”

This is the time of year where familiar music fills our sanctuaries and dominates our airwaves. In church, we sing about baby Jesus and angels. Rudolph, Santa, and jingling bells echo at parties. We know the first verses of many Christmas hymns by heart. It would be easy to stick with what’s familiar and not to learn anything new.

Yet the prophet Isaiah calls to us….

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.

And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Advent is the forging of a new creation that reveals God’s glory. New roads. New valleys. New mountains. New ground. Alongside our old traditions should be new expressions of glorifying God.

Is there a new song that you might sing this Advent?

While this blog series mainly focuses on songs that are not necessarily in the “Christian” genre, this week is an exception. Michael W. Smith (who had two cassette tapes in my holder!) and Amy Grant recently recorded a song entitled, “Almost There.”

The words remind us that no matter how far we’ve come as children of God, we’re still “almost there.” There is always more to learn. There is always further to go. There is always space for a new song.

Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith have recorded a number of well-loved songs, including some we sing mainly at Christmas time. Successful songs of the past have not prevented them from writing and recording new ones for today. Part of our growth as artists and as children of God is to create something fresh. We don't neglect the songs written twenty years ago. We build upon them. "Almost There" is a song of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. It's the story of Christ--not just Christmas.

As we sing the songs of cassette tapes and prior times, let us download a new tune, too. Isaiah may have written his prophetic song centuries ago, but the message is one of new creation—yesterday, today, tomorrow, and always.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

* Isaiah 40:3-5 (New International Version)

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The Advent Gospel of Mumford and Sons: "Awake My Soul"

Two years ago this month, Isaac the dog adopted me.

Before I actually lived under the same roof as a dog, I thought that canine communication was simple. When I said, “sit,” he would sit. If he barked at the front window at noon, I’d know that the mailman was in the driveway. His sniff of the food bowl in the evening would translate to, “Pet Parent, where’s my dinner?"

Thankfully, many of my conversations with Isaac are as simple as I hoped they’d be. Some days I do wish he could talk, that he could tell me how he’s feeling or why he barks at the UPS truck with such ferocity. What I didn’t expect was the way he would express his strong opinions on music.

When I started watching reruns of the TV show, Glee, I learned that Isaac did not appreciate high school choirs’ covers of Journey and Bon Jovi. As soon as the synthesizer hit those opening notes of “Don’t Stop Believing,” he would leave the room. I often found him on the living room’s couch—his head (and thus his ears) under a pillow.

I tried turning the volume down, but he still wouldn’t stay in the room with any pop music. He would pause in front of me before leaving the room, ears up and a look in his eyes that said, “Really?” A deep sigh later, he escaped to his pillowed cocoon.

One Saturday morning, for extra house-cleaning motivation, I decided to listen to Mumford & Sons I gathered laundry in the bedroom while Isaac rested in the den. The song, “Awake My Soul,” began quietly, with only acoustic guitar and a lightly picked banjo as instrumentation.

Lend me your hand and we'll conquer them all
But lend me your heart and I'll just let you fall
Lend me your eyes I can change what you see
But your soul you must keep totally free
Awake my soul, awake my soul


I reached for the volume. I didn’t recall drums entering that early in the song. I turned it down, but the thuds continued. I looked overhead. Was something on my roof—or in the attic?!

The mysterious drumbeat continued, and I was looking in the wrong places for its source. I walked to the den. Mystery solved. Sprawled on the floor was Mumford’s newest band member: Isaac, his tail wildly thumping the tile floor.

I carried the portable speaker to the den and turned up the volume. Isaac’s tail speeded up, as did the music. Before the end of the song, he was leaping and dancing around the room. While he did not try to sing along, he managed to turn the fireplace, floor, coffee table, couch leg, and me into his drum by thumping his tail on each one in a surprisingly close rhythm to the song.

In these bodies we will live.
In these bodies we will die.
The way you invest your love
You invest your life.
Awake my soul, awake my soul.
You were made to meet your Maker.

Echoing through Advent is a call to awaken our souls. Our Maker comes to us in a body that will live and die for love of us. Do we hear the drumbeat that announces a King’s arrival?

Animals and children often hear what adults have forgotten or overlooked with age. We miss opportunities to join the band. We sleepwalk through rituals and routines –from cleaning the house to singing familiar carols. The busier our lives become in these days leading to Christmas, the more tired we become and the less "awake" we truly are. We become more disconnected to our Maker as we try to make everyone happy.

“Awake My Soul” is a song for all seasons, but I’ve especially enjoyed listening to it this Advent season. While Isaac has not graced me with his dance since that Saturday morning, he continues to thump his tail when the familiar banjo plays. As his eyes open wider and brighter, I pray that God will do the same with my sight.

… The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened…**

With awakened souls and enlightened eyes, let us join the Advent dance.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

* Read more: Mumford & Sons - Awake My Soul Lyrics | MetroLyrics

** Ephesians 1:17-18a (New King James Version)

If you are unable to watch the video directly in this email, here is a link to the You Tube video: