Every fall, the publishers promote a new batch of Advent devotionals. Even though I have a few books that I come back to each year, I look forward to these new offerings. One that recently caught my eye is called Rise Up Shepherd!: Advent Reflections on the Spirituals, by Luke A. Powery. The Rev. Dr. Powery is the dean of Duke University Chapel and associate professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School. His book leads us through a separate spiritual for each of the days of Advent.
The book’s exploration of the themes of perseverance, anticipation in the midst of despair, and the inescapable joy of singing, develops a faithful reflection on the traditional focus of Advent, with a twist. As Powery writes in the introduction: “It is (the) future present hope embedded in the Spirituals that led me to put them into conversation with the historic Christian liturgical season of Advent, a season that is itself built on the hope of the coming of Jesus Christ.” Over the next few weeks, I will share some of the insights from Powery’s books and the playlists will feature spirituals. There will also be a few surprises…but no chocolate.
Aint’a That Good News leads us by the hand from last week’s reflection on Christ as our King. Because of Christ’s reign, we have treasures in the kingdom: a crown, a harp, a robe, slippers, and a savior. That’s good news! This song tells us that we claim those treasures by “laying down this world, and shouldering up my cross.” That is good news, too. Despite the real, relentless hardship, joy bubbles up because of the hope and truth of Jesus. The difficulties will not defeat us. Jesus is all – past, present, and future – all that we need. And that is definitely good news!
This week’s ST#140 – Advent 1 playlist includes a number of different arrangements of the spiritual, including an organ improvisation on the tune.