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Morning Song – Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord

November 29, 2015

Building roads is a massive undertaking.  In the ancient world, it was the work of empires and conscripted labor.

So the Isaiah 40:3-4 text—

A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!

Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!

Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low;

The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.

used by Christians in Advent isn’t expressing, in its original context, a happy-go-lucky kind of sentiment.

Isaiah’s liberation to the captives implies woe to the captors.  A year of favor and forgiveness of debts comes as a boon to the indebted…but a crushing loss to the lenders.

Part of the genius of Kenneth Louis’ “Prepare Ye The Way Of The Lord”—and in particular, this performance of it by the choirs of Good Samaritan Episcopal Church and the UCSD Newman Catholic Community—is the way it expresses the foreboding and unsettling power of God’s coming.

You can hear it from the dark and ominous opening piano chord, the rattlesnake gourds and tambourines, the wordless, pulsing beat of the choir (echoing generations of prison work gangs), the eerie, jazzy guitar fills.  Even after the song reaches its joyous climax (4:36) and the congregation bursts into applause, the choir and musicians don’t let it end on that moment of cheap grace.

They bring it back to the rhythm and hums of the wordless, nameless workers doing the hard and necessary work of preparing the way, building the road, remaking the landscape for the acceptable day of God’s coming.  Prepare ye the way of the Lord indeed.

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