On Dancing Days
Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! Psalm 149:3
“Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” is my favorite hymn. Not my favorite hymn of Advent, but my singular favorite of all. So much so, I am willing to admit, that I listen to it every morning on my way to work. No matter the temperature or date on the calendar, I queue John Rutter’s version, performed by the Winchester Cathedral Choir.
Why? In a word: Epistrophe. In a measure: this particular hymn, which is sung from the perspective of Jesus just before his incarnation, uses the repetition of Jesus referring to the World as “My love” as he invites them into “his dance.”
From the Second Verse:
Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man’s nature
To call my true love to my dance.
Chorus: Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love, This have I done for my true love.
The hymn cycles through the major events of Jesus’ life: his incarnation, birth, ministry, crucifixion, descent into hell, and resurrection. Each verse returns to remind the audience that this grand intervention is done on an account of “My dance.” What a wonderful metaphor, to think of Christ ’s miraculous work as a dance. Each step in the movements precise, measured, intentional, but not so mathematic as to lose the beauty, and more importantly, the romance of God’s participation in our lives.
This song uses Epistrophe. This song is about Romance.
This worldly experience was never meant to be a solo performance. We are not dancers on a stage, each of us isolated, shuffling about without any designed purpose. There is no greater romantic intent than God’s active movement in the world – a dance, requiring you, the bride and Christ, the bridegroom.
I try to remember that every morning, around 6:30 AM. That ’s when I remember the dance of Christ’s past, present, and future advent in my life. Just know, that if you ever wake up and listen at the same time, we’ll be dancing together. And what a wonderful thought that is – to dance together.
Christ among us. Amen.
The Humble family are South Main members. Seth is a published author and essayist.