Reflecting and Doing
According to Flanders and Swann, hippos like to wallow in glorious mud. Apparently, it’s good for their skin. As Christians we are called to wallow in God’s word – just as good for us but less messy.
To help us keep God’s word hidden in our hearts (Ps 119:11) try this simple method for meditating on scripture. Let it become as familiar as comfy slippers. (But watch out – sometimes the oh-so-familar verse can become a sword and poke us into action! Are we ready for the challenge?)
Choose a verse that you would like to wallow in and write it several times on sticky notes. Now stick these in places where you will see them regularly: in the loo, by the kettle, on your car’s dashboard, on the mirror, by your computer. Move the notes if the places get so familiar that you stop seeing them.
I’m going to do this now. I’ll use “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” Will you join me?
Deck the halls with the prophet Isaiah, ’tis the season for Handel’s ‘Messiah’!
When doe the Christmas festivities start for you? Is it when the first neighbour puts up their Christmas tree? (23nd November this year!) For me, it is when I hear or sing Handel’s ‘Messiah’. The first part of this ever-popular work is about Christ’s coming, so it’s understandably popular in Advent, and it quotes pretty much this whole passage verbatim.
It’s unusual for me to choose the King James version for a reading, so why have I done that this time? Oddly, it’s for the same reason that I usually avoid it.
When the KJV was translated it was deliberately made old-fashioned, even for 1611, to make it sound erudite and inspiring. So while the language is undeniably beautiful, it’s not the clearest for today’s readers.
It’s like us trying to have a conversation in Shakespearean English. We could do it, I suppose, but it’d never flow smoothly. I’d have to keep stopping and asking what you meant when you call me a quatch carlot or a rampallian. Is it a compliment, or should I be offended?* The language is unfamiliar, and the convoluted grammar interrupteth the stream of the same, for the increase of hinderment in him that readeth. Marry n’uncle.**
But that hindering is exactly the reason to use the KJV here. With a narrative, stumbling over archaic grammar obstructs and clouds meaning. But for a meditation (which is what ‘Messiah’ is), slowing down and swirling the words around and around, as one might a fine brandy, is useful. That’s why so few words can fill an entire chorale.
So take some time out of the hectic pre-Christmas rush, and meditate with me on these wonderful words of promise and hope. Part I takes just 50 mins, that’s less than the Christmas episode of Dr Who.
Here’s a playlist of the music with sing-along lyrics. Go grab a cuppa, and lubricate your tonsils …
(** This does not mean you have to marry your uncle. It’s more like ‘Good grief, dude!’)
Isaiah 40:1-11 King James Version
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
King James Version (KJV) Public Domain
Messiah, G F Handel
Image: John Bramblitt, The Good Shepherd, https://bramblitt.com/products/the-good-shepherd