christmas and gospel inversion

The structure of our Advent/Christmas calls
to hope, joy, peace, love, and light
made our Minister of Music think of this organ piece.

Listen carefully to this arrangement of “Adeste Fideles” by Charles Ives.
The melody is first established as the familiar tune to “O Come, All Ye Faithful,”
but upside down (inversion’s the musical term—
and a good scriptural and theological one too!)!
So where the familiar tune goes up, here it goes down—
where what we sing goes down, this goes up,
and we hear familiar notes (if the tune’s in our ears),
but out of order—not as part of the tune we know so well.
Then Ives flips it, and familiarity asserts itself.

Interestingly, the Sunday morning she played this,
we also sang from “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” these words:
“heavenly music floats o’er all the weary world;
above its sad and lonely plains they bend on hovering wing,
and ever o’er its Babel sounds, the blessed angels sing”
(Edmund H. Sears).

In our upside-down world with all its Babel sounds,
we do not always hear the God-story—
do not always hear grace notes—
hope and joy and peace and love and light notes.
But there comes a moment—this we believe,
when God turns everything that’s upside-down
(so right-side-up!),
and we hear in the startling fullness
of its beloved familiarity and glory,
the song of God.

That’s Christmas,
It it is also gospel


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