So… I have thoughts. In no particular order:
Jim Scott does like a long verse, doesn’t he? (No judgment, really, just noticing that his song make for long hymns.)
It took three phrases to become a Jim Scott song, because he has a signature style – and then it’s very much a Jim Scott composition. (Again, no judgment – more of an ‘oh!’ when we get there.)
If you omit the first verse, this is a great child dedication song. (And maybe you don’t even have to omit the first verse, if you can hang through “ancient story” and “longest night.”
Ancient story lived again, dark of longest night.
Birth of innocence and hope kindles our delight.
All celebrate the labor’s end.
Forth in laughter, tear and smile.
Light of love and joy extend all around the child
New life fragile yet complete, life from love once more.
Universal miracle, faith in life restore.
The harmony of all the world
lulls the newborn child to rest.
Welcome dreamer, safely sleep on your mother’s breast.
May our wonder never cease, Nature’s greatest art.
Birth and breath of life again warms the coldest heart.
Now rich and simple gifts bestowed,
Sacred promises well made.
Reverence and hope renewed all around the babe.
Vision for humanity, all around the child.
Loving as one family all around the child.
Life passages well understood,
known and felt around the earth;
Rich or poor we each are blessed by the miracle of birth.
Which brings me to the last thought (well, almost – I’m trying to figure out his use of the word “forth” in the first verse): this is a very non-offensive hymn for a group of people who are offended by celebrating the birth of Jesus every year and the explicit nature of many beloved carols. And I get it. I mean, I have personally heard the criticisms of a rather Christian Christmas Eve service (“because it’s Christmas-freaking-Eve” I want to shout but don’t), and I suspect this piece comforts people because while some of the key notes are hit (“reverence and hope renewed”, “miracle of birth”, “the child”, “ancient story”, etc.) there’s nothing terribly explicit about the birth of Jesus – thus my assertion that this could be used for a child dedication. You know it’s a Christmas song because we put it in the Christmas section and hint to it, but it’s really quite ubiquitous.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a good song, and I have used it. It’s one of the easier Jim Scott pieces for a congregation to sing, as long as there are strong song leaders for the Scott turn in the third phrase. I am always impressed with Jim’s lyricism and turns of phrase.
But my thoughts have turned into feelings, and something isn’t feeling right to me. Maybe it’s the grief talking, maybe it’s the exhaustion of so many days of hymns, maybe it’s the spectre of a new project that involves the Bible. The truth is, I am not sure what I’m feeling about it, but it feels tender to me.
Anyway. Don’t be put off by its length. Or break it up. Or pick a couple of verses. And have a strong song leader.
Another image from Pixabay. Babies come with hats.