To clarify: I don’t need a song to get me excited about heaven. The hope and promise of an eternity in God’s presence is enough! But. One of my favorite bands in the world, Milano, recently released a single of their song called Festival and it is just…I have no words. Let’s look at theirs:
a song in our throats, with bells in our hands
a thunderous sound from the old marching band
an old soldiers hymn, a victory anthem
bang on the drum with your old calloused hands
because all is a gift. We finally own everything!
praise him, you gauze bandages!
antique hospital beds!
all is mended in the festival!
praise him, you ex-patriots!
all displaced citizens!
creeping things! flying birds!
all my wells! all my springs!
you consume everything!
finally, we’re going to the festival!
I just picked the last couple verses, I wanted to just copy and paste the whole song in here because IT. IS. SO. BEAUTIFUL. I cannot even…I wish I could figure out how to embed the mp3 here but you’re just going to have to do me a favor and go listen to it at the link above, or here if you don’t even feel like scrolling back up. But really, this song is an absolutely perfect example of a song that makes me just so, so excited about heaven, even more than usual. On a daily basis, as I encounter the general crappiness of this world, I look forward to the day when I won’t have to deal with it all anymore, but this often feels like more of an exasperated wishing away of current troubles than a jubilant anticipation of the very real, coming day when the things we long for on this earth will actually become a reality, where divisions will be gone and death will be no more and we will dance in the presence of God forever!! If anything is ever deserving of two exclamation points, that is it.
So I have listened to that song over and over and over again since it was released last week. Sitting at my desk, I thought to myself, ‘Does it get any better than this?’ But then I thought about how much better it’s going to be LIVE (I love live music more than almost anything) , and I got even MORE excited thinking about the next time I’ll get to be part of that. And then I went to church on Sunday, and I remembered–the only thing better than worshiping with a big group of people in a crowded bar is worshiping with people who are a significant part of your life every single day and know who you are and where you’ve come from and what you’re dealing with and have shred all these things with you!
My very best memories of Wheaton are of All-School Communion, a completely voluntary worship service that took place a few times a semester during which we observed communion as a student body. Some of these services were attended by nearly every student at Wheaton, and some were only attended by a few hundred, if even that. In my four years I only missed a few, and then not happily, and I have even considered going back as an alum–they were that good. There was this song we used to sing, “We Will Dance,” and it always came toward the end of the service, after Communion, and when the music began everyone knew what was coming. People would clap with the beat in anticipation as the musicians slowly built up to the first verse, and by the end everyone was just straight up dancing in the aisles.
We will dance on the streets that are golden
The glorious bride and the great Son of Man
From every tongue and tribe and nation
Will join in the song of the Lamb
These lyrics are great, but the power really comes from the experience of singing it with other Christians who are looking forward to that same reality.
Even if I went back to All-School today, I don’t think the experience would be quite as powerful. Yes, we would all be worshipping the same God, but a big part of what made those experiences so meaningful was the fact that we were already part of the same community, and by breaking bread together and singing together, we were reminding ourselves of the real purpose of our little community–we shared classes and dorms and a common eating area, but really we shared our God, and a hope and a longing for this new reality that defined the lives we just happened to be living in the same geographical area. Worship unifies these bonds of community, and is most powerful, to me at least, when it is with people you are already sharing life with. That is now my church family, and, unsurprisingly, I have recently realized that I feel most connected, both to them and to God, when we are observing communion together and singing together–most especially when the song voices this shared longing and hope for Heaven. My recent obsession has been “You’re Beautiful” (by Phil Wickham), particularly this verse:
When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful
This song has nearly brought me to tears multiple times over the last few weeks. Both images, of a boat arriving to shore, and a bride entering the church and walking toward her groom, evoke images of longing and anticipation fulfilled, and connect the reality that is to come to the reality we already know and can imagine.
So what songs make YOU excited about heaven!?! Please share in the comments!