After its two month vacation, my voice came back Saturday night as I sang Christmas carols at a holiday concert. Pretty cool: my voice finally returns as I sing about God’s loving the world and bringing peace to all creation!
After church the next day, I walked to our mailbox and realized I was singing out loud, the old Shaker song, Simple Gifts:
’Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.*
My lungs were so full of joy that I didn’t want to stop singing and didn’t care if the neighbors heard. Blue sky set off the rich green mountains, the temperature was 85 degrees, and the street deserted. I walked to where the land drops away at the end of the cul-de-sac and sang, “Oh come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant….Oh come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.”**
As I picked my way across scratchy green brambles to the very edge, tiny seeds filled my red ballet shoes. At the point where the soil can crumble underfoot and send a person tumbling far enough to be injured, I stood on the precipice, faced the San Gabriel Mountains and felt my lungs expand with ancient hope. Eyes slightly wet, I sang with a full voice:
O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel,
Who mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Desire of Nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife, and discord cease;
Fill the whole world with Heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”***
I imagined the voices of mountainside chaparral and wild animals joining me in song.
On Sunday, after I finished singing and stood silently at the edge of the hills, I heard the words of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah echo from morning worship. Although Isaiah speaks of tangible deserts where few of us now live; our personal lives, nations and world need the refreshment and life he promises:
“Like the crocus, [the desert] shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The eyes of the blind shall be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped…
the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy” (Isaiah, chapter 35, excerpted).
I walked the short distance home and ate homemade pie while I read the Sunday paper in glorious sunshine on the patio. Then I shared my joy with loved ones by shopping for their Christmas gifts on-line.
O come, Emmanuel, fill the whole world with peace, turn us ‘round right, and bring us to the valley of love and delight.
*Simple Gifts, Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr., Shaker Community in Alfred, Maine, 1848.
** O Come, All Ye Faithful, John Francis Wade, 1740-1743
***Veni Emmanuel, 12th century, C.E.