Songs for sighing

I have lived in Australia for 16 years, a transplanted American. Compared to the USA, Australia is, for me, a place where  “nothing happens.” I say that with respect. Australians seem to keep their remote continent under control. The national attitude down under might be summarised as “No worries mate.” There aren’t any really big problems in Australia, even after the Global Financial Crisis. It reminds me of life in the 1950s in America when I was growing up. Life seemed simpler, happier back then. Certainly, Australia is a modern nation not stuck in some time wrap, with modern stresses and issues — but it has a carefree way of engaging with life that I love.

So why did I entitle this blog “Songs for sighing”?

Those words come from a hymn that we sang today at church, at the feast of the Epiphany. This feast celebrates the Christian realisation that God came for all men and women, not a select tribe or nation or even faith. The three Wise Men are a symbol of diverse people around the world searching for something and finally finding it in the manger in Bethlehem. The song we sang today remembering what Epiphany means goes like this:

“He comes with succour speedy to those who suffer wrong / To help the poor and needy and bid the weak be strong / To give them songs for sighing, their darkness turn to light / Whose souls condemned and dying, were precious in his sight.”

Even in happy-go-lucky Australia, men and women occasionally sigh — and don’t know why. Life is good here; why am I not completely happy? When these moments come, they sense they need something but can’t say what. At these times, we Christians offer them “songs for sighing” What can that possibly mean?

Why does everyone sometimes need songs?

There are certain songs that touch my heart. Danny Boy is one. Un Bel Di (One Beautiful Day) from the opera Madame Butterfly is another. You probably have your own favorites.These songs express emotions that are almost unbearable. Yet, sometimes, I need to hear such songs. Why? That’s hard to explain, almost a mystery. Something in me yearns for emotional depth, and is fed when certain songs trigger an experience of such depths. That which is outside my control touches me. Words actually fail when it comes to explaining what goes on at such times. Yet, and of this I am certain, some part of me feels fed by such songs. A part which can’t be reached by the usual experiences of life in Australia (or anywhere else for that matter).

When Christians promise “songs for sighing” we are using a metaphor. We aren’t literally saying go listen to your favourite song. We are saying that, just as some songs touch you deeply and feed some part of you that you don’t normally sense, we have experienced God’s touch and been fed by it. It’s mysterious but real. When you sigh and don’t know why, that touch is what you are yearning for. Come and see, like the three Wise Men.


Leave a Reply