Dear Henri, Empty and Singing — Advent Week 2, Day 9



[a]Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains would tremble before you!
2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze
    and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
    and cause the nations to quake before you!
3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
4 Since ancient times no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
    who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them,
    you were angry.
    How then can we be saved?
6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
7 No one calls on your name
    or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
    and have given us over to[b] our sins.

8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
9 Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord;
    do not remember our sins forever.
Oh, look on us, we pray,
    for we are all your people. -Isaiah 64:1-9


Dear Henri,

So often I write of Songs from the Underground here on this blog. Whether they be literal songs or ones of whispers, moans, hand signals, legacies or influences, these songs have played a massive part in the sharing of freedom in this space. Music has the capacity to do anything. Music can break chains and bring life. Music is universal.

So when Okoro writes of "A Song from a Hallowed Space", vibrations and tones begin resonating inside me. This is my language! Here she writes of Elizabeth's barrennes both literally and metaphorically; she writes of her womb being holy ground, and the eruption of song from a dead place a divine masterpiece.

Isaiah cried for God to come down, as did many of the prophets. Who wouldn't? Usually prophets were sent during times of great catastrophe and strife. When one's people are being oppressed, overtaken, starved or punished, how can one not cry out in a loud communal shout? How can compassion not drive one's vocal cords?

"So what now? How do we live in states of barrenness and still practice the devotion of Elizabeth? Amazingly, God works through many barren wombs in Scripture. Sarah has Isaac. Hannah has Samuel. Ruth has Obadiah. Elizabeth has John. From the wombs the world calls cursed, forgotten, and barren, God brings forth life used to save, heal, guide, and prepare others for the kingdom." (Okoro, p.46).

Created to dwell in community with God and one another, how do we lift our hands to the Divine when our very bodies are empty? How do we connect? How are we re-membered? Elizabeth offers no answer other than she continued to show up.

Sometimes we aren't able to do even that. 

I trust Scripture's inspiration, but I also know that the Gospels are more like snapshots of what happened over the course of years. My gut feeling is that Elizabeth had a few days, many perhaps, where she didn't show up. Perhaps she couldn't get out of bed, perhaps she couldn't face Zechariah or her family, perhaps her desire for a child so weighed her down that to life her eyes towards God was nothing more than receiving a slap in the face.


Elizabeth was called righteous and devout, but how often do we forget that she was also human? A woman?

For some of us, our places of inner barrenness will be filled with life before we see death. For others of us, this won't be the case. Yet it seems to me that Okoro is trying to show that whatever the outcome, Elizabeth was determined to remain connected to God — loved, wanted, complete, whole. 

How can we learn from such an example, Henri, when the dark days threaten to overwhelm us again?

What songs can we hear? Where are they coming from? Within us? Next door? Down the street?

Until tomorrow, Henri,


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