Today’s song is “Wake, Awake.” If you click on the title, you’ll get a karaoke version with organ and lyrics. This may seem like an odd way to approach a hymn, but it makes some frail sense, because this wonderful Advent hymn is unlikely to be one you burst into while stringing popcorn and cranberries for your Christmas tree.
Philipp Nicolai wrote this in the late 1500s when his parish lost 1300 people to the Black Death, 170 in one week. He thought it might cheer them up. There are lots of translations of this hymn, and crowds of arrangements, including a bunch of wonderful ones by Bach, who put it with some other stuff to make “Sleepers Wake.”
The song is a mass of contradictions. The tune is so lovely that it ought to be one of everyone’s favorite hymns, but honestly not very singable — in fact, some people get confused and lost in it and don’t care to sing it at all. The words are hard for modern people to fathom, since they use the metaphor of bride and groom for Christ and the church. The watchman of the city has seen the bridgroom coming, so he calls to the young women of the town to get their lamps lighted and run to join the wedding party. While the metaphor is used fairly frequently in the Bible, many of us today find it weird enough that we have trouble following the words, too. And yet “Wake, awake the night is flying” or “Wake, a thrilling voice is sounding” or “Wake, O wake, the watchman’s calling” or “Sleepers wake, a voice is calling” — all of those are pretty ways to start a hymn, and the triumphant image of gathering at God’s throne to sing is nice, too.
Most of the kids have gone back to their homes or colleges now, and we have nothing of the Thanksgiving holiday but mess to clean up. We put up our Christmas tree last night, played lots of games, and went to Advent services this morning. This afternoon, we had lunch with the last bits of pie and saw the kids off.
Now we have to clean the house, study, grade papers, and stuff like that.
We don’t feel like it, frankly. #1 son is supposed to be writing a review of The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the Fourteenth Century
and a paper about Allen Ginsburg’s Howl . He isn’t in the mood, and doesn’t like or want to read either one of them right now. He should have been doing it but has instead been playing Mario Party and rock climbing with his siblings.
I’m supposed to be grading papers. I’m not in the mood for that, either.
Actually, #1 daughter has been having to work retail this weekend, while the rest of us lolled around enjoying ourselves, and she hasn’t been in the mood for that, either.
I guess it’s the idea that you’re working while other people are playing that makes it so hard to work on holiday weekends, even when we’ve had many days off and even when we enjoy our work.
I don’t know whether #1 son would be enjoying Ibn Batutta or Allen Ginsburg any more if other people were also back at work than if he were the only one studying in the aftermath of our four day party.
I’ve come back to my computer, in case. I cleaned the kitchen a bit (the before picture is above, but it isn’t quite good enough yet for an “after” picture. I may give up and go back to reading and knitting, though. I have Christmas presents to finish, after all.