Advent Through the Eyes of Gabriel, Part 3
Revelation 4:1-11 We are grateful to our music program and to God for this music we have shared this morning. As we read earlier in Revelation, the angels gather around the throne, singing their praise to God; so we gather in this place, in hopes that the music of our worship might give praise to the one we serve.
It was this same God whom Hugo Distler served as he composed this Cantata. And Distler was not only a composer; he was also a brave Christian. He came into his professional prime during the Nazi rule of Germany. He caught the attention of the political leaders in several ways that disturbed them: he composed only sacred music, and not the nationalist hymns they so desired; his lyrics reminded listeners that Jesus was a Jew, a provocative statement in the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany; and he was a member of the Confessing Church, a movement of pastors and theologians like Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoeller which strongly opposed the co-optation of Christianity by Hitler’s government. For these reasons, his art was more than religious; it was also deeply political. The Nazis labeled it “degenerate.”
It was these pressures, in addition to the constant fear that he would be conscripted into the German army, which finally took his life in 1942. In short, Hugo Distler lived a faithful and troubled life. We can hear that tension coming through his lyrics from the Advent piece you all just sang: “Thou the Father’s only Son, hast o’er sin the vict’ry won. Boundless shall Thy kingdom be; when shall we its glories see?” There is this struggle with the suffering and injustice that surrounds, with a nation he loves that has plunged itself into severe darkness; and yet, there remains that desire, unfulfilled though it might be, wrapped in the trust and hope that one day we will see the fullest manifestation of God’s kingdom with its piercing, healing light.
Or, to put it in the poetic images of the author of Revelation, Distler’s prayer was that the voices which sing his compositions might join as one with that eternal chorus around the throne, singing words that reflect the reality of the world’s brutality and yet remain firmly rooted in the hope and longing for God’s unending promises that, in Christ, all will be made right.
And in the midst of this Advent season, let us join our prayers with his. Amen.