Longing for Life to come PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marie Bowen   

Mary Joseph Fotolia 73810834 MMusic is one of the most powerful means by which Christians rehearse and retell the longing of Advent and the story of Christ's birth. The themes of waiting, longing, labor, and life are woven together in ways that have helped my spirit and imagination to grasp the immensity and import of God's act in sending Jesus to take on human flesh. Advent's themes of longing and labor and life came together in amazing and intricate layers in the text of a wonderful choral anthem, Almost There,* with words and music by Michael W. Smith, Wes King, and Amy Grant.

Focused on Mary's journey with Joseph to Bethlehem, the composers capture the longing for birth that every pregnant woman experiences—the weariness and labor of waiting even before physical labor of birth begins. Mary's weary longing was more than hers alone. The whole of the Jewish people had been waiting and longing for centuries for the Messiah that she carried to come into the world. Never did they expect he would come as a child in the womb of a virgin!

Mary, full of innocence,
carrying the Holy Prince,
you're almost there,
you're almost there.

The song was especially poignant for our choir since the wife of the choral director has been waiting for the delivery of their fifth child. Her pregnancy has not been without difficulty, discomfort, and pain—even risks to her own health. Singing the lyrics in a recent rehearsal, I was caught up with how apt this text is both for Mary who carried the redeemer—

All hope is in the Son you'll bear
You're almost there.

and also for every woman who faces fears and trials during pregnancy, for whom labor is long and arduous, or who is facing pregnancy alone and unsupported by the father's child or her family.

Prayer for strength to do your part,
Your lonely road, a willing heart,
You're almost there, you're almost there.

The anthem speaks encouragement for couples who wonder how they will provide for their child and the reminder that it is God who brings life and who provides.

Trust the Father to provide

During Advent, of course, our expectation goes beyond the birth of a human child as we ponder the anticipation of the incarnation of God's own son, Jesus, who, though himself God, comes in human flesh. Through him God provides so much more than our daily bread. The centuries of longing of the Hebrew people for the coming of the Messiah and our own longing for the return of Christ on earth are felt in these strains of the anthem:

Bread of Heaven prophesied;
You're almost there,
You're almost there.

You're almost where the waiting ends,
Delivering the Life within,
The answered prayer,
You're almost there

One week later during another rehearsal of the anthem, its theme took on another layer of meaning for me as my mother labored in her final days of life. She longed to be free of her body riddled with cancer, longed to see Jesus and be reunited with my dad and so many loved ones who have already passed from darkness to eternal life. She spent her last days in prayers for her family, her caretakers, and prayers of thanksgiving for God's blessings during her life.

You're almost where the journey ends,
Where death will die and life begins,
The answered prayer, Emmanuel;
You're almost, almost there

During that second rehearsal as the choir voices soared in a glorious "Ah!" I thought of how similar the pain of labor during birth is to the pain of labor at the approach of death. I thought of Jesus who entered our world and took on human flesh knowing birth and death. Because he came, death is defeated. No longer is death an end to our existence, but rather, the labor of birth into eternal life. As we sang the words, I entered the labor of prayer for my mother's birth into the presence and glory of life with God.

You're almost where the waiting ends,
delivering the Life within,
the answered prayer, Emmanuel;
you're almost there.

Mom passed into God's presence the following morning and through my tears, I felt her joy.

*Almost There is published by the Hal Leonard Corporation, Milwaukee, WI. Choral version arranged by Heather Sorenson



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