prophets: old and new

Those who know me well know that I am passionate about the bands I love. But they may be surprised to learn that I have only one Cardinal Rule when it comes to music while driving:

When U2 comes on the radio, you never change the station. NEVER.

I don’t care if you’re not in a U2 mood; I don’t care who’s in the car with you; I don’t even care if it happens to be one of the few U2 songs you’re not wild about. YOU NEVER CHANGE THE STATION.

I have abided by this one cardinal rule for my entire driving career, and it has never steered me wrong. Because Bono and the band will inevitably be the music you need to hear, right then and there. That is the beauty of the brilliantly-talented, poetic and prophetic boys from Dublin.

Such was the case yesterday morning. S was strapped in the back seat, singing a loud protest about his missed nap. My mind was spinning with the day’s to-dos and wondering why on earth I packed us up for this field trip on icy roads. As we slid (literally) into the first stoplight of the drive, I thought seriously about turning back for home and skipping our moms’ group for the morning.

Which was precisely when my ears perked up at the opening drums and chords of one of The Best Songs Ever Written And Recorded.

“I have climbed the highest mountains / I have run through the fields / only to be with you…”

Ah, I thought, and relaxed into my seat. Perfection.

I smiled. We drove on. And I listened, because I’ve learned to turn my ear anew to U2 each time I hear them.

Yesterday was no exception. Earlier that morning I had been chewing on Isaiah’s words from the first reading of the day. In a grace-filled moment, I remembered his words and understood them afresh as the answer to Bono’s yearnings in I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For:

On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

I had never considered this U2 classic as an Advent track. But my cardinal rule of driving opened my eyes.

Bono is singing about the most Advental yearning of them all: our deep desire for God. We run through this life, chasing after everything we think will bring us happiness – wealth, power, fame, sex, possessions, thrills. But we’re always unsatisfied, always searching for More.

Augustine’s well-worn words have become cliched; who doesn’t know (at least theoretically) that our hearts are restless till they rest in God? But the depth of this truth is Advent at its core.

Every December we are reminded that the world offers us a pretty plate of other gods from which to chose. The temptations of commercialism and consumption are dangerous devils indeed. We are challenged as Christians to live differently, to search for More, to prepare our hearts for another coming of God in time.

It is this moment that both Bono and Isaiah describe, when all the people will stream towards the mountain of the Lord: “I believe in the Kingdom Come / when all the colors will bleed into one.” What a rich Advent image to feast upon.

Thank God for prophets, old and new: their poetry, their music, their imagination. Their words are sometimes harsh and demanding, other times lovely and pure. But we need them all. At least, I do.

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