Have you ever noticed that the feel of the music in many churches changes at this time of year? Right now we are in the season of the Church Year known as Lent. During Lent, the sounds and singing in many of our churches could best be described as “sad” or “somber.”
Do you know what gives the music that sad, somber sound? Oftentimes it is because it is written in a minor key. In the music of our Western culture, songs are generally written in either a major or minor key. If they are written in a major key, they tend to sound more cheerful or upbeat. If they are written in a minor key, they tend to sound somber, sad or even scary.
Go to YouTube and listen to hymns like O Sacred Head Now Wounded and Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted. They sound sad and somber. They sound like a funeral. They are written in a minor key.
Lent is life lived in minor key. During the 40 days of Lent we follow our Savior Jesus on his dark and difficult road to the cross. We see him suffer. We watch him die. We are reminded that it is our cross which pressed down on his shoulders. It is our dumb and dirty deeds which caused his pain. Lent is a time of repentance and sorrow over sin.
But is Lent really such a sad season? Jesus bore that cross willingly in love. And because he did, we are forever forgiven for every last one of those dumb and dirty sins. Look carefully at the words of those “sad” and “somber” hymns that we sing during Lent. “If my sins give me alarm and my conscience grieve me, let your cross my fear disarm; peace of conscience give me” (Jesus, I Will Ponder Now Christian Worship 98:4). As we cling to the old, rugged cross, we are reminded that we will exchange it one day for the crown of heaven. Is that really something to be sad about?
Scientists call the coastal regions where fresh water and sea water mix an estuary. Lent is an “estuary” where the bitter tears of sorrow over sin are mixed with the sweet, joyful tears of sins forgiven.
So, as you live life in minor key during this Lenten season – as you sing those sad, somber melodies – make sure you listen carefully to the words. Yes, it is your sins that caused his suffering. That is your punishment which he bore. But he did so willingly in love. Because he did, you are forgiven. You are going to heaven. When we really listen to the words, we come to realize that the sad, somber songs of Lent are really the happy hymns of heaven.
Which is your favorite Lenten Hymn? Leave a comment below and let us know.