It’s the first Sunday of Advent, and I am feeling unsettled, uncertain about the future, and not very happy. I’m usually ebullient at this time of year, but not this year. Thanksgiving with the family was excellent, but between the election and my husband’s desire to move two time zones away, I am just not that happy this Advent.
Fortunately, there is a hymn for every state of mind. I begin with an Advent hymn with words by Dean W. Nelson, set to the fine Welsh tune Ton-y-Botel. I’ve sung truly gruesome Good Friday words to this tune, and it seems like the perfect sad Advent song.
Signs of endings all around us –
darkness, death, and winter days-
shroud our lives in fear and sadness,
numbing mouths that long to praise.
Come, O Christ, and dwell among us!
Hear our cries, come set us free.
Give us hope, and faith, and gladness.
Show us what there yet can be.
Can it be that from our endings,
new beginnings you create?
Life from death, and from our rendings,
realms of wholeness generate?
Take our fears, then, Lord,
and turn them into hopes for life anew:
Fading light and dying season
sing their Glorias to you.
Speak, O God, your word among us.
Barren lives your presence fill.
Swell our hearts with songs of gladness,
terrors calm forebodings still.
Let your promised realm of justice
blossom now throughout the earth;
your dominion bring now near us;
we await the saving birth.
The tune, also called “Ebeneezer,” was composed by Thomas John Williams in the late 19th century. It’s haunting and lovely, and can be sung with quick lilting notes or in a more dirge-like arrangement.
Dean W. Nelson wrote the words. Nelson was born in 1944 and is apparently still with us. I can’t find information about him, or at least I can’t find information that I am sure is about him, and not some other person with the same name.
It’s a sad song, but it holds a hopeful prayer and a triumphant promise, because Advent is like that. We may not know what will happen to us between now and Christmas, but we know that Christmas will come, and with it the reminder of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.