Four Octaves

~~Since I’m church home-less (again) I welcomed an invitation to attend the Christmas candlelight service at the sweet little storefront church that hosts our Bible study group. We sang most of my favorite traditional Christmas hymns. Since it’s a small church, there is no big production-value show for television broadcast. It’s just a few simple (gifted) Christians leading a few more simple (less-than-gifted) Christians in worship through song. 

I am always moved by the sound of corporate worship. Sometimes I just close my eyes and whisper, “Be pleased with your people Lord Jesus,” as I listen to the sound of the saints lifting their voices together to the throne. Tonight was no different. “Silent Night” did me in. The thing that was different tonight was the sound of struggle.

Have you ever noticed that every traditional Christmas song is written in a key that no one can sing, and spans four octaves? It’s as if every common pew-sitting Christian from the 1800s was a classically trained operatic singer. One thing a small church illuminates quickly is the general lack of talent in the pew. If we could sing a four-octave range, we’d likely be up front, but we can’t, so we usually rely on a really loud sound system and great production to make us “blend” into one acceptable voice. In a small church, there is no hiding, there is no blending, there is no “one voice”. And it was really beautiful, the sound of the struggle. As I whispered through tears, “Be pleased with your people Lord Jesus,” I thought about how our struggle to sing all the right notes exemplified our common struggle through the year to live a life worthy of our calling. We are flawed human beings. Ordinary people, trying to do the extraordinary. Trying to reach beyond our abilities in an effort to please our most worthy king, but failing more often than succeeding. Hearing the note, but unable to reach it. “Be pleased with your people Lord Jesus.” I think He is.

I think He is as pleased with our earnest daily efforts to live a life that honors Him as He is with our earnest effort to go from the basement to the roof while singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel”. It’s the heart that matters. And the audience.

We are trying Lord. Oh, how your people are trying to get it right in this four-octave world as one-octave singers. It’s a stretch every day but every day we try again, and we trust your grace to cover us in our inadequacies. We lift our hearts, we lift our voices, we lift our efforts, we lift our failures and shortcomings to you with praise, in worship. Be pleased with your people Lord Jesus. We’re trying.

Oh Come, oh 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 oh Israel.” Sing it or croak it, but praise the One who was born for this purpose. He is your ransom. He is your song. He is your audience. He is your Emmanuel. Merry Christmas!!