I’m an infrequent songwriter – by which I mean, I write a song every decade or so. This one has been bubbling away for a number of months as I’ve had the joy of experiencing life more ‘normally’ than had been the case for a few years. I’m guessing it’s similar to moving through stages of grief: I’d find myself happy and enjoying something, both the unusual blessings and also the everyday occurrences, when I’d be hit by a sense of ‘but it wasn’t this way last year’ or ‘things could have been so different’.
I’ve been reminded in recent days that we live in a time where it is essential that Christians pray – ‘sowing for a great awakening’ – for God to heal and bring people to salvation in Jesus’ name, and grow disciples who will make disciples throughout the globe, and bring peace and hope to the poor and destitute. I’ve been reminded that, when we pray, God answers, and things change. But also that sometimes the things we most long for don’t happen, and we need to find a way of being at peace with that.
This hymn is a response to God’s love in Christ and to the reality that not even God gets his own way in this fallen world – that we live in the Kingdom juxtaposition of ‘now’ and ‘not yet’. So sad things will happen, but we have this hope deep within us that, one day, all will be well.
The hymn is set to the tune KINGSFOLD (aka ‘Star of the County Down’), which is probably best known as the tune for ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’ – you might recognise some phrases/thoughts borrowed from there. And you’ll notice the first verse is sung in the first person so we can ‘own’ our personal relationship with God, but in the second verse the hymn moves into the third person plural, recognising that these difficult mission situations are meant to be shared in community: evangelism, healing, social justice, discipleship.
I hope you find this hymn – or is it a Psalm? – helpful; if you happen to find it encouraging, or even use it in worship somewhere (you’re free to do so), please do send a comment.
1 I heard that Jesus Christ was born in a stable, low and meek,
The Word of God camped in our midst, the word of truth to speak.
I heard he lived and worked and shared the abundant life he had;
He showed the way to the Father’s arms, and he has made me glad.
2 I heard God’s love was meant for all, so all might then believe;
The name of Jesus is enough to save us from our sins.
Not all will turn to God in faith despite our urgent pleas;
So we will strive with all our might to win them from our knees.
3 We have heard of bodies, hearts and souls being healed in Jesus’ name,
Yet often we must be content with His presence in the pain.
Our weak and wounded hearts cry out, “Lord, let your Kingdom come:
Give us a glimpse of your glory now; in our weakness be made strong.”
4 We heard the plight of refugees in fear on land and sea,
And of hungry children round the globe while we dine on in greed.
As the earth glows warm and our hearts dim cold, people lost in loneliness,
We’ll live light; share bread, and be their voice – one in our brokenness.
5 God, you call us to apprenticeship, walking close with you each day:
Learn a growing hope that’s gently shared through words and your embrace.
Freedom declared to all the earth – every adult, girl and boy:
We will follow Jesus where he leads with a melancholy joy!
Photo: A garden in Tallinn, Estonia, lit by candles during a festival of light in September 2019 – their brutal occupation by the Soviet Union is still fresh enough in Estonia’s memory to bring sadness, but they appear to be a people with assured identity and hope for the future.
2 thoughts on “Melancholy Joy”
I love it! I sang it just now sitting at my sister-in-law’s place in Melbourne. Thank you for sharing it. “Melancholy Joy” is a perfect image for these times.
Love it Ross!! Have you recorded it? Let’s get the whistles and voices out and make it happen. Beautiful an haunting all at the same time. X