I wish it weren’t the case, but I find that there are lots of times that I get choked up when I’m listening to music. I’ve not figured out what the exact trigger is, whether it’s the lyrics, the music, the artistry of it, but there is rarely a week that goes by where I’m not choked up by some song.
One that is a guarantee for a tear or two for all the reasons above is Stevie Wonder’s “As,” from his nearly-universally argued magnum opus, Songs In The Key of Life.
If you’ve not listened to the song (or haven’t heard it recently), I’ll attach a link to the end of the email, but be sure to buckle up, because it’s a song that will take you on a ride. It’s beginning motif is a light, airy pop feel. And just as you start to get the hang of that, Wonder moves into the chorus. When you hear it, you can’t help but sense that it’s driving at something – the chords constantly move, the tempo is more demanding. If you were basking in the verses, you now were nearly commanded to listen to chorus. What are the words? Well, the end of verse where the change occurs is “And I’ll be loving you always…”
Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky
Until the ocean covers every mountain high
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream…
Goodness. The images. And there’s more, too: day becoming night, night becoming day. Trees and the sea flying away. Mathematics and time bending themselves completely out of proportion, and perhaps my favorite “the earth just for the sun denies itself.”
Que the lump in the throat for me. Because I’m being demanded to hear about a love for me that will completely reshape the deepest perceived structure of reality. And how frightening would it be that the stars would collapse, the sea flying away! You won’t miss it when it happens. And so Wonder’s brilliance is revealed as his lyrics and music invite us to imagine the most impossible love to exist.
Now maybe imagine the words of Luke 21:25-36 with that same demanding chorus: the sun and moon and stars will give signs, and people will be confused by the sea and waves. But we can take heart that no matter what happens, that we are loved so deeply that Jesus will return.
But that’s not all – Wonder sings a bridge with the same chord progression as the chorus (which is the balance of the song, really). Even his voice now changes – deep, strong, intense… prophetic. We’re reminded that sometimes that this world is difficult, such that we don’t want to born, but yet we’ve been called. We are pushed to consider our role in the world, and to think beyond our time to the future. Prepare the way, brother and sisters. God has called us to be ready.
I’m not sure if Stevie Wonder wrote “As” as an Advent song. Probably not. But it’s not a stretch to listen to this song and hear the words of God. That we are loved so deeply by our Creator that the whole Creation can be bent on itself – that even life can overcome death. That valleys will be filled and mountains made low because God’s son is arriving.
It might be enough to make someone cry.