Monday, September 11, 2017

Road trip songs

I've been hearing or singing some hymns and carols for over 50 years. Charles Hodge once said you “can ascertain the real faith of people more clearly and uniformly from their hymns and expressions of devotion than from their creeds and theologies.”

As a young boy I doubt I paid much attention to the lyrics. I don't remember what I was thinking in that regard at that age. I just liked the music. After becoming a teenage convert to Christianity, I became attentive to the theology of the lyrics. Still, at that charmed time of life, it was rather abstract. 

At this point in life there's been a shift in my perspective when I sing or hear the hymns and carols which have been a part of my life for over 50 years. I haven't changed my theology, and I still like the music. I used to think of the musically superior hymns and carols as having a timeless aesthetic value. Musical artwork. Like paintings and architecture. 

Yet you get to a point of life where you realize that most of your life is behind you. I'm in-between older generations who've passed away and younger generations on the way in. You begin thinking of yourself as on the way out. Looking back on this life. Looking ahead to what lies beyond this life. 

Nowadays I view the hymns and carols as road trip songs. Their value has become more temporary. They edify and sustain each Christian generation on the journey of faith as we head through life and head out of life towards our everlasting destination. Songs of faith we sing to ourselves and our fellow travelers. Road trip songs that pilgrims before us handed down to us. Road trip songs that we hand down to the next generation. Songs we learn on the journey as well as sing on the journey. 

In a sense we leave these road trip songs behind us when we die. They served their purpose. Here's an interview with a 98-year-old former choirboy:

On a related note is an archive of historical recordings by the same choir. This one is from 1967.

Listening to it, I was thinking to myself, where was I in 1967? What was I doing back then? I was in second grade.

And here's a 1954 broadcast:

That was before my time. And the same choir has annual photographs dating back to 1884:

Those kids, so young at the time, grew old and died. It may be that in heaven, we will continue to sing some of our favorite hymns and carols as a grateful commemoration for what God brought us through in this life. 

1 comment:

  1. This generation has forgotten a little bit the "old" good stuff. I'm 22 and I love to sing hymns in my church, but unfortunately many people of my age don't appreciate their value. Some friends that have come to my church because I've invited them have said that the "atmosphere" feels dead. They expect to see a band.