A common complaint in our modern culture is the swiftness of time. It seems like every month we look at each other and ask, “Where did the last month go?” For church musicians, this is especially true during Advent as Christmas approaches, more closely followed than we might wish by Lent and Easter. It seems as though there is never enough time to adequately prepare our music and our hearts for each season.
On top of our regular responsibilities during Advent, we rush to purchase and wrap presents, bake holiday treats, throw and attend parties, and attend extra church services, pageants, concerts, or special events. We hear the call to still our hearts during the penitential Advent season and truly desire to slow down to contemplate our need for Christ’s coming, but we find it nearly impossible. By the time Christmas Day rolls around, we want to go into hibernation and forget about the rapidly approaching Lenten season.
A Different Perspective on Church Preparations
At the same time, we have been given a gift in our vocation as church musicians. Built into our jobs is contemplating each season and each Church festival, even if it seems as though we are not able to do this at the slow pace we might desire.
Taking a hiatus from church music this year due to the birth of my daughter gave me a different perspective on the work we do. Sitting in church on one of my favorite Sundays, All Saints’ Day, I realized I was missing something. Of course, handling a month-old hungry baby during church means that you miss something of the service, as all parents know, but this was something more than trying to balance the demands of new parenthood.
For the past several years, I had gotten used to preparing for this service by singing the hymns and pieces for the day for a few weeks before the service. This gave me multiple opportunities to contemplate the words and immerse myself in the music, even if it was tiring and time-consuming work. This year, though, I was simply there for an hour and a half, and that was it. The church service flew by, and it was over. I hardly got a chance to enjoy the music or contemplate the readings because they were over before I could wrap my mind around them.
The beauty of the lectionary is that we can anticipate the readings each week and peruse them ahead of time. My church sends out a newsletter listing the hymns we will be singing each week. I could have gone over them ahead of time. The reality, though, is that life is busy, and I did not take the time beforehand to go over anything; the service passed before I could collect myself.
Our Work as Contemplation of the Gospel
I realized then the beauty of being a church musician. It can be a lot of hard work, long hours, focused planning, and stressful rehearsals. In the end, though, our job calls us to contemplate each day of the Church Year. We spend hours singing the Gospel we hear throughout the year. We sing beautiful poetry again and again, many times with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We are blessed to be given the time to prepare our hearts for the major festivals of the Church Year, even if we do not recognize it as such. Our very schedules revolve around these beautiful things.
Christmas will still get here before we know it. Lent and Easter will still follow closely on its heels. We will still not think we or our choirs or instrumentalists are quite ready for any of the above and wish we had more time to prepare. However, the reality is that we have a job that allows us day after day to contemplate the greatest, most joyful truth of all: that God became a child for us.
Ponder All These Things for Eternity
Our job gives us ample opportunity to treasure the things of the Gospel, pondering them in our hearts like Mary (Luke 2:19). Where does the time go? It goes to serving God’s people so that they may join us in this pondering. Yes, our lives are often busy and stressful. We sin, and our sinful natures cause us to worry and fret and to not take time to ponder the things of God. God though, in His great mercy, came to us that first Christmas. He came to us in the flesh, a flesh that was ultimately crucified and risen and is offered to us in His Sacrament. The work He gives us is good, leading us by the power of the Holy Spirit to His great feast that has no end; for with God in eternity, time is of no consequence. With God in eternity, we shall forever do the work of a church musician. We shall forever sing His praises even as we ponder Him.
Aid in your work as a church musician while allowing yourself time to reflect on upcoming hymns by using the Worship Planning Book.