Sunday, November 27, 2011

Borne of Wings of Stormy Grandeur

This year, for each Sunday of Advent, I will post a hymn I have written that relates to Advent or Christmas. Here is the first one.

Advent is the season in which we await Christmas, the celebration of God stepping into this world in the person of Jesus Christ. But at one time, Advent was also the season when we remember to wait for Jesus’s Second Coming, the time when He will return, not as a baby but as a king and judge the world. One hymn that exemplifies this is “Lo He Comes,” a hymn that served as one of my main sources of inspiration for this one.

My other inspiration came from a former hurricane that made its way to my home in Connecticut one autumn. Although the winds were no longer strong enough even to qualify it as a tropical storm, they were far stronger than most of the winds we get in Connecticut. It was the evening of a football game. As I practiced my routine with the marching band before, I felt a rush of excitement as the cool wind whipped past my face and as I watched a pile of dry brown leaves swirling between the band members, carried by a whirlwind.

Borne on Wings of Stormy Grandeur

Borne on wings of stormy grandeur
Now the Lord Most High descends
Suns dissolve before His splendor
Every mighty mountain bends.
Every tower built against him
Crashes to the foaming sea.
None now doubt that He is holy
Or deny his majesty.

Those who rose against their sovereign
Now before his armies flee,
Recognize their guilt and treason
When pure holiness they see.
Yet He runs to those who trusted
Holds them in a king’s embrace.
He who wields the sword of justice
Reaches out the hand of grace.

How is it that the eternal,
Infinite and great I Am
Could be bound within a body,
Gentle sacrificial Lamb?
Can infinity and weakness
In one soul be intertwined?
Why would He who spins the planets
Reach to touch my shadowed mind?

To the void His voice cried out once;
Every word He spoke came true.
Still His word, though now incarnate,
Sounds forth, making things anew.
He from Heaven to Earth descended
Us from Earth to Heaven to raise;
By His brokenness He mended
Souls who now adore and praise.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Feel Grace Day

I hear all the English teachers I have had screaming as they read the title, “No! After only five months she has succumbed to the Chinglish that permeates her new home. How can this be?”

It is true that “Feel Grace Day” is not an English term. It is a character-by-character translation of the Chinese term for “Thanksgiving.” But I think it highlights an important truth about the nature of thankfulness.

In Chinese, most words are two syllables long, and each syllable has its own meaning. Native speakers are not always consciously aware of the meaning of each syllable, just like most English speakers don’t think of “hospital” as being related to “hospitality.”

The word for thanksgiving in Chinese is “gan’en,” and the holiday is “gan’en jie.” “Jie” means “holiday,” “gan” means “feel,” and “en” is grace.

I don’t think all Chinese terms make much sense when translated (for example, their word for “turkey” means “fire chicken”). But I think this one has a deep lesson.

I’m a little obsessed with the idea of grace. What it means is an undeserved gift. Something that we had no reason or right to expect, but that we receive anyway. Grace is central to the Christian message, because the whole point of Christianity is that we receive salvation because of what God has done for us, not what we do for God. But grace includes many other things that we experience in our lives.

What thanksgiving really is, is feeling grace. It’s knowing that we have received many things in our lives that we did nothing to deserve. As Americans, we tend to think in terms of our rights, but many things we need are not our right; they are things that no one was obligated to give us but that we have received anyway. God was not obligated to provide us with healthy bodies, sound minds, opportunities for education, loving families, comfortable lifestyles, oxygen or any of the things we take for granted. If you have received any of those things, that is grace, and it is something to be thankful for. Even things we earn are only possible because of things like talent and health which enable us to earn them.  

So, with all my heart I wish you a happy “feel grace day.” May you enjoy what you have today and every day, and realize that every person on earth has received far more than we have earned.