“Away from the Manger (Refugee King)” written by Liz Vice, Wen Reagan, Bruce Benedict, Greg Scheer, Lester Ruth. © 2018 Cardiphonia Music.
Performed by Clayton Faulkner and Annika Becker (oboe) for Lessons and Carols for Advent 2019 at Faith Lutheran Church, Bellaire, TX.
Download the original chord chart here.
Download my arrangement chord chart here.
Download the oboe/C instrument part I wrote here.
While we were planning for the Lessons and Carols service this year, there was a question as to what should be the carol sung between the last two readings (Luke 2:1-7 and John 1:1-14). It was very providential that I came across this song last week when trying to decide what that last carol should be. It turned out to be quite fitting not only for that spot of the service, but also for the larger season of Advent, and the situation of our world today. One attendee said, “the words were so very appropriate for us to hear with so many babies and young children being held in confinement centers at our borders.”
The connections this song subtly makes are jarring. Jesus was a refugee. His parents were terrified. They were running for their lives. The same is true for immigrants and refugees today. I’m aware of the story of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old from Guatemala who crossed the border in Texas in May and died in U.S detention on May 20 from lack of adequate medical care. Carlos crossed the border because his brother has special needs, and he came to earn money to support his brother back in Guatemala. He is the seventh child that has been reported as dying while in detention near the southern border.
“Keep us from Herods and all of their lies,” is the lyric that sets this song apart. It has the bite of Canticle of the Turning’s “Let the king beware for your justice tears ev’ry tyrant from his throne” (Rory Cooney). One of the ways that empires maintain control is through an alternative narrative. Lies feed people the fear that allows for oppression to take place. We should take note when kings and emperors tell us to not treat everyone as a neighbor. They are the lies of empire, not God’s kin-dom.
Some backstory from one of the composers, Liz Vice: “Earlier this year I was invited to a conference at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI to have a conversation about Christmas carols and how most don’t give an accurate depiction of the scene of God coming to earth in the flesh. A group of us gather into a room and reprised “Away in A Manger”. Side note: Since I wasn’t there, you know, at the actual scene of the Christ’s birth, I can only use my imagination with the scripture I’ve read. Matthew 1:18-25 Joseph’s dream to flee/run/ escape to Egypt Matthew 2:13-14 “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Live video of Liz Vice singing:
Official audio version:
Away from the manger they ran for their lives
The crying boy Jesus, a son they must hide
A dream came to Joseph, they fled in the night
And they ran and they ran and they ran
No stars in the sky but the Spirit of God
Led down into Egypt from Herod to hide
No place for his parents no country or tribe
And they ran and they ran and they ran
Stay near me LORD Jesus when danger is nigh
And keep us from Herods and all of their lies
I love the LORD Jesus, the Refugee King
And we sing and we sing and we sing
Previously I’ve talked about altering the fourth stanza of text to deal with the “fear of hell.” In Jesus, there is no fear. The idea that God is looking to eternally punish anyone is suspect. “Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” (1 John 4:18)
As we sang the song recently, a new lyric jumped out to me. In the third stanza it says, “he was punished for a world’s transgressions.” As I have personally drifted away from a punitive, substitutionary atonement theory, lyrics like these stick out all the more. Violence begets violence. The idea that God violently punished the Son to make things even might be the source of many of our world’s problems.
I found this quote from Rene Girard helpful, I hope you do as well.
The ways of the kingdom of God, brought to fullness in Jesus Christ, are upside down when compared to the ways of the world. The last are first. The poor and hungry are blessed. When Jesus appears to be at his weakest, most vulnerable point, he is actually performing his most powerful action. As a reflection of the upside down nature of the kingdom of God, brought to fullness in Jesus Christ, the church marks its time in an upside down way. We count time in a different way than the world. We have reached the end of the church’s calendar. November 20 is Christ the King Sunday, a celebration of Jesus’ eternal reign. November 27 is the first Sunday of Advent, similar to New Year’s Day for the church’s calendar. While the world may already be putting up their Christmas trees and decorations, the church is marking time in a different way. We still have some waiting to do.
The tradition (which dates back to the early sixteenth century) involves placing four candles on a wreath and a fifth in the center of the wreath. One candle is then lighted each Sunday during the Advent season with the fifth candle being lit on Christmas Eve.
The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. You may choose to place additional decorations on the wreath. Various evergreens, signifying continuous life, can be placed around the circle of the wreath. Pinecones, nuts, or seedpods also symbolize new life and resurrection.
There are several interpretations of the specific meaning of each candle relating to Christ and the Advent season. Those meanings are further enhanced by the colors of the candles. The first, second and fourth candles are purple/lavender (symbolizing expectation and royalty), the third candle is rose/pink (symbolizing the joy of reaching the midpoint of the Advent season), and the last candle is white (symbolizing Christ, the Light of the World).
The Advent wreath can be placed in the center of the meal table or another prominent place in the home. On each Sunday of Advent, the candle can be lit at dinnertime after the blessing of the food. A brief devotion (provided below) can be a great introduction to each week’s candle. Allow your children to have an active role in reading, praying, and lighting the candles.
First Sunday of Advent – December 1 (Candle of Hope – purple)
- Reading – Isaiah 9:2
- Prayer – “Jesus, we welcome your presence now with the lighting of this candle, whose flame brings warmth to winter and fills this place with the glow of hope. Amen.”
Second Sunday of Advent – December 8 (Candle of Love – purple)
- Reading – John 3:16
- Prayer – “Jesus, we welcome your presence now with the lighting of these candles, whose flames bring warmth to winter and fill this place with the glow of hope and love. Amen.”
Third Sunday of Advent – December 15 (Candle of Joy – pink)
- Reading – Luke 2:10
- Prayer – “Jesus, we welcome your presence now with the lighting of these candles, whose flames bring warmth to winter and fill this place with the glow of hope, love, and joy. Amen.”
Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 22 (Candle of Peace – purple)
- Reading – Luke 2:14
- Prayer – “Jesus, we welcome your presence now with the lighting of these candles, whose flames bring warmth to winter and fill this place with the glow of hope, love, joy, and peace. Amen.”
Christmas Eve – December 24 (Christ Candle – white)
- Reading – John 1:14
- Prayer – “Jesus, we welcome your presence now with the lighting of these candles, whose flames bring warmth to winter and fill this place with the glow of you. Amen.”
Who do you see in this image?
This one may be easier:
Both of these images show Jesus (center), Mary the mother of Jesus (left), and John the Baptizer (right).
Orthodox churches have an iconostasis: a wall of icons and religious paintings that links together the nave from the sanctuary in a church. The door (called the Beautiful Gates) that the priest uses to move between the sanctuary and the nave is flanked by icons.
The bottom tier of icons is called the Sovereign. On the right side of the Beautiful Gates is an icon of Christ (often called Pantocrator –which means Almighty, Omnipotent, Lord of the Hosts). This image of Jesus symbolizes his Second Coming. On the left side is an icon of Mary the mother of Jesus, symbolizing Christ’s incarnation and entrance into this world. There is a theology behind these images. One side is Christ’s first incarnation, the other side is Christ’s second coming. All movement that takes place in the sanctuary during worship happens between Christ’s first and second coming.
John the Baptizer and Mary the mother of Jesus take their places beside Jesus as the primary examples of proclaiming and bearing the presence of Christ in the world. How do John and Mary strengthen our faith? One said, “I am not worthy to untie his sandals.” The other said, “I am the servant of the Lord, use me.” They model for us humility and service to the Messiah.
Advent is the season when we reflect on living between the first incarnation of Christ and his second coming. We remember his first coming into the world as a baby. And as we prepare for the coming of the infant Jesus, we are actually preparing for his second coming as the Ruler for all eternity.
If you’re not a worship/liturgy leader, let me explain…
From his bio at http://www.stuarttownend.co.uk:
Stuart is known and respected around the world as one of the leading worship songwriters of his generation. The depth of lyrical and theological content in songs such as In Christ alone, How deep the Father’s love, The power of the cross and Beautiful Saviour have caused some to draw comparisons with the greats of previous generations such as Watts and Wesley; while the marriage of great lyrics with wonderfully accessible melodies (largely through his successful writing partnership with Keith Getty) means his songs bridge different musical and cultural genres, and reach into every corner of the globe.
In other words, he’s a worship music stud. Two of those songs mentioned in the bio are in the top 50 songs of CCLI currently. He is obviously blessed with some wonderful gifts, and millions of people sing his songs across the world.
But I had a problem with one line of his, in one song, and I changed it, and I think its a better song now.
Now let me say that song writing is hard. I consider myself an amateur at best. Songs are rarely perfected. They often have to be revised repeatedly, and even the final product sometimes needs more work. I respect Stuart. My songs stink compared to his. I’m not trying to be overly critical. But I do care about the words that churches sing. I think it’s extremely important to give congregation’s the best texts possible (both theologically and artistically). What we sing in church is as important as what is preached in church, if not more important.
The song in question is called Immanuel (or as I call it, “From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable”). It’s one of my favorite songs. I have put it into regular rotation every Advent for years. The lyric in question comes from stanza 4, the original quoted here:
Now He’s standing in the place of honor,
Crowned with glory on the highest throne,
Interceding for His own beloved
Till His Father calls to bring them home!
Then the skies will part as the trumpet sounds
Hope of heaven or the fear of hell,
But the Bride will run to her Lover’s arms,
Giving glory to Immanuel!
Here is the part I changed:
Then the skies will part as the trumpet sounds.
Heav’n joins earth where God will dwell,
And the Bride will run to her Lover’s arms,
Giving glory to Immanuel!
Here are some reasons why I changed it:
- Fear is never a good motivating factor. Just ask any person who has lived under a dictatorship throughout history.
- I don’t feel like God ever intended for a fear of hell to be the driving factor in His relationship to humanity. I vaguely remember Jesus saying some stuff about love.
- A more biblical picture of the consummation of history is the collision of heaven and earth and the establishment of a New Jerusalem where God is present with us forever.
- It’s also interesting that this “fear of hell” seems to be contradicted in another lyric from a different song by Stuart – the 4th stanza from “In Christ Alone:”
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Romans 8:1 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” and the rest of the chapter is pretty good too.