The Sound of Music

MR 745You may have been hearing a lot about The Sound of Music lately.  Apparently a t.v. version of the famous film has been made, starring Carrie Underwood.  That’s not, however, the reason I’ve chosen this title for today’s blog. Instead I chose it because this is the time of year when I tend to pause and remember that nature itself has a song to be sung.  It is the Advent season and Christmas is quickly approaching.  One of the most popular hymns of Advent is “Joy to the World.”  In it you will find the refrain, “Let heaven and nature sing.”  The hymn writer felt the coming of Christ was cause for singing not just among humans but heaven and nature as well.

MR 778In a few minutes I’ll be going to choir practice.  I don’t usually sing with the choir but each year I like to join them for their Christmas cantata. This year’s cantata is called “Let Heaven and Nature Sing Gloria!”  One of the songs is about the Wise Men, or Magi’s, journey to Bethlehem.  A number of times throughout the song the Magi say “Mountain and tree, come join in our song, a glad alleluia as we go along!” 

MR 740When’s the last time you asked a mountain or tree to sing along with you?  I doubt that it happens very often.  How come?  Perhaps it’s because we cannot imagine the possibility that mountains or trees could sing in the first place.  Be that as it may, does the fact that we cannot imagine the possibility mean that it is not actually possible?  There are a number of places in the Bible where various aspects of nature are said to sing praises to God.  There is, in fact, a strong biblical basis in the song mentioned above for the Wise Men calling on the mountains and trees to offer God their praise.

MR 912In First Chronicles 16 King David offers a psalm of thanksgiving and exhorts all the earth to “sing to the Lord” and “proclaim his salvation.” (v. 23).  He gets a bit more specific a few verses later: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’  Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.  Then the trees will sing for joy before the Lord…” (vs. 31-33)  The prophet Isaiah speaks similar words.  He writes, “Sing for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, O earth beneath.  Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.” (Isaiah 44:23)  In another place Isaiah says “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees will clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12)

We may not think mountains and trees can sing praises to God but it’s pretty obvious that both David and Isaiah did.  In the book of Job God Himself indicated that nature sings when He said that as the foundations of the earth were being set “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy.”  (Job 38:7)   Centuries later Jesus told those who sought to hush the crowds for singing praise to him that “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

MR 788In the light of this biblical witness, who are you or I to say the mountains and trees do not sing God’s praises?  Just because we cannot hear them with our own ears doesn’t mean they are silent.

I choose to believe that “the hills are alive with the sound of music” and that they offer praise to their Creator.  I would also affirm with Wendell Berry that there is, indeed, “a timbered choir” and that they too worship God in song.  So perhaps we, along with the Wise Men, should encourage “mountain and tree, come join in our song, a glad alleluia as we go along.”  If we fail to do so, don’t be surprised if it’s the mountains and trees that encourage us to sing with them.  It is, after all, that time of the year.

–Chuck

(I took all of the images above at Mount Rainier National Park.)