A few years ago Dan Forrest (music) and Eileen Berry (lyrics) wrote a new, gorgeous, and moving Christmas song. Below, the combined choirs of the University of Utah perform “Carol of Joy.”
Forrest and Berry are professors at Bob Jones University; and quite naturally, their carol uses traditional Christian language and metaphors with which they are at home. Yet, I believe there is universal appeal in Forrest and Berry’s creation.
Green leaves all fallen, withered and dry;
Brief sunset fading, dim winter sky.
Dark closing in…
Then, through the stillness, carols begin!
Oh fallen world, to you is the song…
I live in a rural area, surrounded by the forest. When the very first leaves begin to fall in mid-August, the days are already noticeably shorter; and the poignancy of nature’s rhythms are experienced on a very visceral level. I find it a very helpful practice to allow myself to feel the fragility and rhythm of life without resistance.
“Oh fallen world”—one need not be religious to be aware of the utter madness rampant in the world. In the 20th century alone hundreds of millions of individuals were slaughtered in useless wars and by power-mad despots who enslaved and starved their people.
“To you is the song”— the Love that we did not create plays no favorites. The song of God, Wholeness, Universal Intelligence, or whatever words we are comfortable using, is available to each of us at any time. Our choice is to pivot, or not to pivot, in its direction. We can exercise our freedom of choice at any time.
This past weekend, my daughter, a sophomore in high school, came to me with a problem. I listened but then turned away from the specifics of her problem to ask her a question. I described four seemingly very different situations and then asked her what the situations had in common. She instantly saw that in all the situations the choice was to turn towards her ego or away from her ego. There was little to say after that.
In my experience, my ego is always there if I turn towards it and look for it. My decision moment-by-moment is turning towards my ego or towards “the song.” I use the word ego often, and I find that few people do not immediately know what I mean. We all have much experience with the incessant voice in our head offering its dysfunctional interpretations and guidance. The ego resists life in a futile attempt to control its world. We all have suffered as we have followed its bad advice.
Pale moon ascending, solemn and slow;
Cold barren hillside, shrouded in snow;
Deep, empty valley veiled by the night;
Hear angel music—hopeful and bright!
Oh fearful world, to you is the song–
Peace with your God, and pardon for wrong!
Tidings for sinners, burdened and bound–
A carol of joy! A Saviour is found!
Earth wrapped in sorrow, lift up your eyes!
Thrill to the chorus filling the skies!
Look up sad hearted—witness God’s love!
Join in the carol swelling above!
“Oh fearful world”—we cannot help but be fearful when we choose to rely on our ego, the part of us that is separated from the unity of life. In her wonderful book Coming to Life, Polly Berends uses the term Fundamental Mind for God. She writes:
To start the day or go from any situation to another without prayerfully acknowledging one’s reliance on Fundamental Mind is like trying to drive your car without starting it. If you have a hole in the floor and very strong legs, maybe you can walk your car around like a kiddie car and make it look as if it is really running. But you won’t get anywhere, except to the hospital with a hernia.
Yesterday I was at the dentist with my wife, son, and daughter for our semiannual checkups. As is often the case, my wife and two children had perfect teeth; I learned I needed still more expensive dental work. Before our long drive home, we stopped at Panera Bread to eat. As I got out of the car, I was lost in my lifelong story of victimization concerning my less than desirable dental health. So lost in my story was I, that my wife had to shout at me twice as I walked right into the path of oncoming traffic. As she shouted, I glanced at the driver of a car of which I was previously unaware. He was looking right at me in a focused way, while I had let my ego completely occupy my mind. The results were almost disastrous.
“A Saviour is found”— for some who are not religious this statement may be off-putting. Yet there is universality here too. If we are lost listening to the voice of our ego we must choose to turn away from its guidance. In the Western world, Jesus is a symbol of one who choose not to accept as truth the falsehoods of the ego. No matter how persistently we choose our ego, Love waits on our welcome. To each of us the “song” is given. We don’t have to earn the song, we don’t have to deserve the song, we just have to value it above the misery that comes from choosing to be separated from it. A Course in Miracles uses the metaphor of remembering the song in this beautiful way:
Listen,–perhaps you catch a hint of an ancient state not quite forgotten; dim, perhaps, and yet not altogether unfamiliar. Like a song whose name is long forgotten, and the circumstances in which you heard completely unremembered. Not the whole song has stayed with you, but just a little wisp of melody, attached not to a person or a place, or anything particular. But you remember, from just this little part, how lovely was the song, how wonderful the setting where you heard it, and how you loved those who were there, and listened with you… Listen, and see if you remember an ancient song you knew so long ago and held more dear than any melody you taught yourself to cherish since.
Best wishes for a joyous and peaceful Holiday and New Year.