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A Barnyard Chorus

Our lambs love to “sing." They sing to greet us, they sing for their supper, and they sing to one another—a call-and-response that creates a musical sphere of relationship. As far as I can tell, I have two altos, a tenor, and a base. What more can a Music City shepherdess ask for than a booming barnyard chorus composed of baaas, whinnys, egg songs, chirps, moos, and howls? It’s a delight to hear as I walk the pastures, my own voice adding to the joyful noise as I greet each of our residents (and our neighbor’s cows) by name.

But it’s not all a wonderland. Sometimes when the world is too much with me, the barnyard chorus is drowned out by the sound of my own thoughts ricochetting in my head like BB gun pellets pinging tin cans. If that’s not bad enough, on cold or rainy mornings my groaning turns my pasture walk into a grind. On those days, I know it’s 321 steps to the barn because I’m mentally counting every. single. one. I can't hear a thing but my own misery. And yet, if I were to simply stop and listen, I’d hear the sounding joy that is bigger, deeper, steadier, and truer than any mood, thought, or circumstance I’m experiencing in the moment.

Did you know that the Bible references “singing” over 400 times and commands us to sing more than 50 times? But praising the Lord in song isn't just for Sundays. There’s another kind of singing that's happening day-in-and-day-out, a perpetual hymn that all creation sings in an arrangement that’s perfectly orchestrated by the Master Musician. Psalm 98, the inspiration for one of the world’s most beloved Christmas carols, exhorts us in the prophetic light of Christ to:

Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth;

break into song; sing praise.

Sing praise to the LORD with the lyre,

with the lyre and melodious song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy to the King, the LORD.

Let the sea and what fills it resound,

the world and those who dwell there.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

the mountains shout with them for joy,

Before the LORD who comes…

How do rivers clap and mountains shout? How do the earth and the sea resound, along with the world and all who dwell there? How indeed does the earth sing praise?

Our barnyard chorus offers a hint or two. It seems to me that the creatures residing on our farm—including those who are just passing through (the birds in the air, the coyotes, the deer, the foxes)— faithfully live-out-loud in the freedom and joy of their God-given natures, to the praise and glory of their Creator. In a similar way, infused with the Master's touch, the mountains ring out God’s firmness and majesty, rivers hum with refreshment and peace, the sea roars with power and might. There's nothing in all creation that does not, in its own way, sing of the glory of God.

But what about us humans? How do we sing of the glory of God?

Scripture affirms that we are created in the image and likeness of God and are called to share in his divine life. If God is Love, then we're truest to our God-given nature when we love others by sharing (singing!) the good news and joy of our salvation in Jesus Christ:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

(John 3:16)

This time of year, we'll especially recall the perpetual song of the angel and the heavenly hosts who announced to the star-struck shepherds tending their flocks:

A savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord...

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

(Luke 2:11,14)

Turns out, this is our song too. We’re not supposed to sing it once and call ourselves saved. We’re meant to repeat the sounding joy with the angels and saints, with the shepherds of Bethlehem, with all of heaven and all of creation! This is the very heart of both praise and evangelization.

Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.

(Luke 2:16)

These favored shepherds heard and saw the glory of God in their day. With grace and spiritual attunement, we can see and hear it too. The barnyard is booming with it. The hills really are alive with it. Heaven and nature sing of it.

Stop. Listen. Do you hear it?

Repeat the sounding joy!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come

Let Earth receive her King

Let every heart prepare Him room

And Heaven and nature sing

And Heaven and nature sing

And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing

Joy to the Earth, the Savior reigns

Let all their songs employ

While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

~Isaac Watts, 1719


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