• advent journal: singing towards bethlehem

    by  • December 20, 2016 • advent journal, faith, friends, grace, grief, hope, music • 4 Comments

    A comment from my friend Jeff on last night’s post sent me on a bit of a musical journey today, so I thought I would invite you to make it with me as we head to the manger. After reading about our new house in Durham, he quoted the chorus of a Kenny Loggins record I remember buying in college, and listening to over and over.

    please, celebrate me home
    give me a number
    please, celebrate me home
    play me one more song
    that I’ll always remember
    and I can recall
    whenever I find myself too all alone
    I can sing me home

    Maybe it’s that Jeff brought to mind an old song that has left fingerprints on my heart that sent me back in my mental jukebox, but I thought of a song Ginger and I found in a Toronto record store on our one visit there together. It was Carolyn Arends’ first album, and as soon as I could I got out my guitar to figure out the chords. It’s not hard to hear that she was singing in the aftermath of Dead Poets’ Society; the song is called “Seize the Day.”

    seize the day, seize whatever you can
    ’cause life slips away just like hourglass sand
    seize the day, pray for grace from God’s hand
    then nothing will stand in your way
    seize the day

    When I go back through my musical history, there is a steady stream of Paul Simon songs. The one I have returned to in the past weeks is “Boy in the Bubble.”

    these are the days of miracle and wonder
    this is the long-distance call
    the way the camera follows us in slo-mo
    the way we look to us all, oh yeah
    the way we look to a distant constellation
    that’s dying in a corner of the sky
    these are the days of miracle and wonder
    and don’t cry baby don’t cry don’t cry, don’t cry

    I guess you’re catching on that these are not particularly Christmas songs, yet these folks are fellow travelers on the road of life, of faith. Kris Kristofferson sings a song called “Let the Walls Come Down” that says,

    on a cold dark corner i town
    an old soul standing his ground
    sang his heart right out at the world
    passing him by
    I can still hear every word
    of a song that nobody heard
    ’cause he sang right out of his soul
    into the sky, when he cried

    let the walls come down
    let the love come through
    when it all comes down
    well, it’s up to you

    He may not sound like an angel chorus, but there is something sacred in his sound.

    Jason Isbell is as good a songwriter as they come, and his last record has what may be my favorite love song, “Flagship.” The last verse says,

    you gotta try and keep yourself naive
    in spite of all the evidence believed
    and volunteer to lose touch with the world
    and focus on one solitary girl

    I don’t know any other way.

    I’ll finish this soundtrack with a song from Guy Clark, who died earlier this year–and it’s not “The Cape,” my personal national anthem. Instead, it is as true a word as can be said “Old Friends.”

    and when the house is empty
    and the lights begin to fade
    and there’s nothing to protect you
    except the window shade
    and it’s hard to put your finger
    on the thing that scares you most
    and you can’t tell the difference
    between an angel and a ghost

    old friends they shine like diamonds
    old friends you can always call
    old friends Lord you can’t buy ’em
    you know it’s old friends after all

    O, rest beside the weary road and hear these angels sing.



    Blogging since December 2005


    4 Responses to advent journal: singing towards bethlehem

    1. December 20, 2016 at 9:51 pm


    2. Jennifer Austin
      December 21, 2016 at 8:59 am

      Hi Milton – thanks for this post. Losing a loved one is life shattering (for a time) and leaves one without an emotional ‘home’. Phillip Phillip’s song, ‘Home’, brings me to tears and uplifts my spirit. I have found new love and am very grateful for my angel on earth, Chuck.

    3. December 21, 2016 at 4:48 pm

      man what a cool collection…the Arends tune is still so very powerful…hell they all are 🙂 love ya like a rock…”God dresses himself up in human skin for those who want to touch…”

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