Lent & Advent


Carolyn Matthews

December 17, 2022

Singing for Our Lives

Greg Ledbetter

(Greg Ledbetter is deeply grateful for 40 years of association with the Lakeshore community and its members and leadership. Greg and Jan recently returned to New England to give it a test drive as a setting for retirement. So far … so good)


Psalm 98 (NRSVUE)

O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gotten him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar and all that fills it,
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness
and the peoples with equity.


Some people say I’m noisy, I belong to the noisy crew,

Shout when I get happy, like good Christians do.

                                             Climbing Up the Mountain as sung by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver


For at least a good long season, though likely it will be many, we have retreated to the north woods where now, in late fall,

the delicate rasp of the dried beech leaves accompanies the gentle nattering of chickadees and nuthatches. Winter will soon be here. We first came this way nearly four decades ago when the increasingly overcrowded Bay Area roads and freeways made us yearn for a less frenetic corner of the world in which to begin my ministry. And now we have returned.


Forty years ago, as a second year student at ABSW (now BST) and a new student minister among the “high Baptists” at Lakeshore, I was introduced to the liturgical seasons. The liturgical monochrome of my religious upbringing suddenly blossomed into a full chromatic spectrum of seasons and celebrations full of new rhythms and nuances. I loved it and was instantly and irreversibly hooked. It may have been that each new year started with Advent with its shadows and seductive silences, but ever since that time, I have looked forward to the season of Advent with a strong and surprising longing.


Odd then that I chose to reflect on today’s passage where the Psalmist has anything but serenity in mind. In joyous and noisy recognition of the infinitely wide spread of God’s saving power, the Psalmist declares that it’s time for a good, loud, raucous singspiration—and not just the human inhabitants, but all creation. (Somebody find Mark Wilson and sit him down at the ivories! I’ll wave my hands as in times of old if that will help.)


The Psalmist is calling us from silence to song so that the extraordinary doings of God can be recognized and proclaimed. No corner of creation has been left unblessed by God’s immense desire that all will be saved. So … How can YOU keep from singing? Well … let me count the ways, perceptive souls might wish to reply. Awake, aware and silent.


Both the ends of the earth as well as corners of the world in which we live have also seen the seeming triumph of savagery and the subsequent silence of people too pained and burdened to speak or sing. Sometimes our silence and reticence can be an expression of sadness. When I am sad, I retreat and shrink into myself. Sadness and silence are not inappropriate responses to the painful counterpoints to the Psalmist’s contention that all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.


In a past sad season, I turned to old hymns—poetic, musical prayers—for sustenance and strength. I sang them alone. We sang them together. “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.” (Horatio G. Spafford) These lovely old hymns became musical mantras that filled us with peace and gave us strength. Singing carried us from a closed in sad silence to an openness that allowed us to see the days ahead as hopeful ones. Indeed, we were singing for our lives.


The vision of the psalmist given to us in these latter days of Advent is an extraordinary one where the voices of God’s children are joined with exuberant instruments and the elements of creation that cannot be constrained to silence. It’s a joyful song and a joyous noise where the sea roars and the floods clap and the hills sing. I tell you, on that great “waking up morning”, I want to be present to witness ALL creation letting loose with a grand, cosmic “sing hallelujah, c’mon, get happy!” And these are hopeful sounds that not only recognize God’s great saving work but carry their own energy for sustaining and fulfilling that work. The musical cacophony to which we are called to join in is not unlike that of the children of Israel circling Jericho with their bodies and their songs, determined to sing until the walls fell. We are exhorted to sing for our lives and the sake of all creation trusting that our songs and our holy noise, joined with our collective will that it should be so, will weaken the mortar that holds unjust systems together and bring them down.


The old Holly Near hymn of protest that declared “We are a gentle, angry people and we are singing, singing for our lives” can perhaps be embellished (again!) to say: “We are a noisy, hopeful people and we are singing, singing for our lives.”

Friends of Lakeshore and friends of justice and peace, in this and every season: Let’s keep singing and let’s keep making noise!


Advent Blessings & Peace,

Greg Ledbetter

Plymouth, VT