Saturday, December 09, 2017

The heavenly chorus

A popular parody of heaven is where the saints spend eternity on a pink cloud singing choruses to harp accompaniment. That's largely based on a literal reading of Revelation. That image of the afterlife is a turnoff for many men. Sounds like it would become very monotonous very soon. 

And I agree that that's a highly inadequate concept of the afterlife for God's people. That said, I'd like to say something in defense of that concept. 

As Advent comes back around each year, I listen to my favorite numbers from Handel's Messiah. I've heard the Messiah all my life. And I've sung the Messiah.

At this point in life, listening to the Messiah is a bittersweet experience. Not as joyful as it used to be. I'm ambivalent.

When I sang the Messiah my father sat next to me. His baritone to my bass. And my mother was ahead of us, in the soprano section, I think. She had the range to either either alto or soprano, but the soprano line is more musically satisfying.

So nowadays, when I hear the Messiah, it takes me back in time to my parents. Reminds me of when the three of us used to sing it together in the choir. 

But by the same token, it reminds me that I can't do that anymore. They're gone. For the rest of my life, I'll never be able to sing the Messiah with my father beside me and my mother ahead of me.

I also remember attending a service one time with my late grandmother. At that age, her voice was very quavery. I believe her favorite song was "Let us break bread together on our knees," although, at her funeral, she had "Work, for the night is coming" sung.

But she passed away about 40 years ago. I also think of another close relative, long gone, with whom I used to attend church. She, too, had a fine soprano voice.

So, although, from my sublunary vantage-point, I don't savor the prospect of spending eternity singing nonstop choruses, and I'm glad that Scripture depicts a more varied afterlife, I do look forward to the day, in the world to come, when, once again, I can sing with some of my dearly departed. 

1 comment:

  1. During the Christmas season and in other contexts, it's good to set aside some time to think about those who have died. Not just deceased relatives and friends, but also other people (e.g., significant historical figures we've never met).

    I've thought about this and recognized the value of it more as I've gotten older. I'm in my mid forties now. My relatives from my grandparents' generation have died out, and those in my parents' generation are starting to die, though most are still alive. Those previous generations were so much a part of my life in my earlier years, and they should remain a large part of it. They should be remembered and honored, and we should anticipate being reunited with deceased believers in the future and should prepare for it.

    Our culture overemphasizes trivialities and doing trivial things with the living. A good illustration at this time of year, which offers a stark contrast to Steve's example of singing Messiah, is the sort of Christmas music that's typically played in malls and other places.

    I recommend that people set aside at least a portion of one day during the Christmas season to think about people who have died. They're often the people who made past Christmas seasons so enjoyable for us and gave us so much else that we enjoy. We should continue to enjoy what they've given us, and we should want to live the rest of our lives well in honor of them and in anticipation of being reunited with them in the future.

    "through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks" (Hebrews 11:4)