Singing the Sacred

Pastoral musicianship and worship in progressive Christianity

Outraged and Frightened, Sickened with Grief

Today I mourn with the world. With the families in Chenpeng Village, China and in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, and wherever violence has replaced love.

While writing, I imagined the tune from the traditional Scottish/American song “Black is the Color (of My True Love’s Hair)“. The lyrics are inspired in part by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. below.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.

In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Outraged and Frightened, Sickened with Grief

Outraged and frightened, sickened with grief
We struggle for truth midst our unbelief.
When innocents suffer in this world of woe,
It seems that violence is all we know.

Tear-streaked faces held by little hands
Are trying in vain to understand
How tragedy happens to the smallest ones.
How will we answer for what’s been done?

For darkness leads into shadowed lands.
It’s only with light that we can withstand,
The cycle of hatred, from our world dispel,
Allowing love within us to dwell.

We look to God in our time of need.
We long for the Spirit to intercede.
We pray for the children, for healing and grace.
For love and peace their fears replace.

Text: Copyright © 2012 by David Wood. All rights reserved.
Permission is given for duplication and use within worship settings and community gatherings.
Dedicated to the victims of violence worldwide on December 14, 2012


Within A Stall A Baby Lies Cradled (But On This Night)

Like many hymn enthusiasts, I’m inspired by the Iona Community. In particular, I love their use of traditional English and Scottish music as a basis for their progressive hymn texts. I’ve long thought that a similar movement applied to Irish traditional music could be successful.

This text focuses on a missing element in many Christmases, Peace.  The rush of the season is full of hope, joy, and love, but often at the cost of peace. I was also inspired by the ministry of the Interfaith Winter Shelter in our town (and similar programs across the nation), and the crisis of homelessness that plaques our country. I’ve set these words to a traditional Irish lullaby that I’ve sung to both of my boys, and it’s dedicated to them.

Within A Stall A Baby Lies Cradled (But On This Night)
Within a stall a baby lies cradled.
Within his mother’s safe arms he reclines.
The world awaits outside of the stable
Expecting a saviour, redeemer divine.

But on this night the world can tarry,
The wise be patient, the shepherds abide.
She holds her treasure, the one she carried
Within her body throughout every night.

Alone and hungry, cold on the pavement
A man lies sleeping as people pass by.
Abused, ignored, forgotten, and hated
He dreams of a place where he isn’t denied.

But on this night a stranger sees him
Not as an outcast or one to deride.
Her hand extended, she offers him refuge
No terms or conditions with love are required.

So on this night, O God, we imagine
A world where all people find peace, calm and sure.
Our hearts are tired and restless from waiting.
We long for the stillness for which we’ve endured.

But on this night, to those who’ll listen,
A voice calls softly, as on the wind:
“For Hope and Peace and Joy to flourish,
It’s Love you must cherish and welcome within.”

Tune: Traditional Irish (“Seoithin Seotho”)
Text: Copyright © 2012 by David Wood. All rights reserved.
Permission is given for duplication and use within worship settings.
Dedicated to my two boys, Maitland and Ogden.

Printable PDF with musical notation: Within A Stall A Baby Lies Cradled (But On This Night)

***If you decide to use this song, please comment and let me know where it’ll be sung!***

Sing With Joy, You Advent People!

I hear from people who wish there was more Christmas music in Advent services. As someone who enjoyes the diversity of the liturgical year, I just can’t bring myself to plan Christmas carols/hymns before Christmas Eve. I was also thinking how few songs are written specifically with the four Sundays of Advent in mind.

MISSION: A familiar Christmas tune paired with a text that conveys Joy for the third Sunday of Advent.  Aside from “Joy to the World” (too obvious), no other Christmas hymn makes me feel as joyful as “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

You could also choose another familiar meter hymn tune and omit the refrain. STUTTGART or QUEM PASTORES might work well, but they’re not as joyful.

This text setting is for the original French carol tune which is only slightly different than the more familiar GLORIA. For that reason, I’ve created a printable PDF with the musical notation: Sing With Joy, You Advent People!

*If you decide to use this text, please leave a comment telling where it will be sung!*

Sing With Joy, You Advent People
LES ANGES DANS NOS CAMPAGNES with refrain (“Angels We Have Heard on High”)

Sing with joy, you Advent people!
Hopeful hearts inspire your song.
Fill the Earth with alleluias
For the wait will not be long.

Joyful hearts sing with exultation!
Joyful hearts sing with exultation!

Draw with joy the springing waters
Bursting from the Well of God.
See the wondrous Gift of Heaven,
Key of David, Jesse’s Rod.


Shout with joy, O Daughter Zion!
Sing aloud, Jerusalem!
Now your God is coming nearer.
Sorrow’s time is at an end.


Tune: Traditional French Carol
Scriptural References: Isaiah 11:1, 12:3, 22:22; Zephaniah 3:14
Text: Copyright © 2012 by David Wood. All rights reserved.
Permission is given for duplication and use within worship settings.
Written for the congregation of First United Church, Bloomington, IN –

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