- “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” (0:44)
- “In the Bleak Midwinter” (1:00)
- “Joy to the World “(1:27)
- “O Come All Ye Faithful” (1:59)
- Huge language to grapple with mind-blowing truths (2:18)
- The humility of the Godhead as an infant (3:08)
- Honesty in Christmas songs (4:07)
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Fernando Ortega: This is my favorite time of the year, advent, especially advent and into Christmas. My former pastor would always tell me that I specialize in advent, Lent and crucifixion, and I was pretty lousy when it came to more joyous seasons of the year. So, that always hurt my feelings. But for me, my favorite advent hymn is Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. Do you know that one?
Stuart Townend: I’m aware of it. We don’t sing it at our church, but I’m aware of it, right. It’s very beautiful.
Fernando Ortega: I think it’s a French carol.
Stuart Townend: Yeah. That might be right.
Fernando Ortega: It is beautiful. And then my favorite Christmas carol is In the Bleak Midwinter.
Stuart Townend: Oh, that’s great. I love that, actually. Yeah, lyrically, that’s beautiful.
Fernando Ortega: Those two. But I love that season. There are so many rich carols to sing in that time. I’m trying to think of all the ones that we do at my church. We didn’t really celebrate advent until this new pastor came, and then he brought me on to bring…
Stuart Townend: Well, I love the hymn Joy to the World as an advent carol.
Fernando Ortega: Gosh, I love that. Sandra McCracken just posted it on Instagram. She was recording Joy to the World while holding her new baby.
Stuart Townend: Oh, sweet.
Fernando Ortega: And so what more perfect team could you sing and holding a child that’s coming into the world?
Stuart Townend: Fantastic. Well, when I tour in the UK, I have a little folk band, an English or Irish folk band. So we do a double-time thing of Joy to the World, and it’s just a big celebration thing, [inaudible] thing, and it’s just so full of energy and stuff, so it’s really cool.
I think in terms of Christmas carols, I’m a traditionalist, so I love, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, and I love that grappling with the enormity of God in the flesh, God of God, light of light, Lo, Here [inaudible 00:00:02:14]. I mean just beautiful. Quite high flown language, but actually really tussling. You need big language to grapple with these huge concepts.
And it is for me, it’s an amazing time of year. That idea that Christ, the one that the Bible says through whom all things were made, would enter what he’d made and walk humbly, is just mind blowing. The incarnation is just an incredible thing that we need to celebrate, descending to our level, understanding so completely because he’s felt what we felt. It’s just a beautiful thing. And I love that idea of the vulnerability of the baby, the Godhead in a vulnerable child who needs a mother to protect him, who needs a mother to feed him. That’s just a mind blowing sense of understanding the humility of God.
Fernando Ortega: Yeah. When my daughter was born, so I’m 62 and I have a ten-year-old, so everybody thinks I’m her grandfather, even my own family [inaudible 00:03:17]. But anyway, when she was born, I was blown away at how incredibly frail she was. You have to hold her head up to make sure that it doesn’t get hurt, her neck, and feeding her and everything, she was just so completely reliant on me and her mom. And that’s how Christ, who spoke us into existence, came through a birth canal, and then suffered himself to be cared for, to be as frail as that, that they had to feed him, they had to burp him, they had to comfort him when he cried. The humility of God in that moment, it’s astonishing. As modern songwriters, we need to write songs about this.
Stuart Townend: Yeah, I think we do. I think people are beginning to recognize that we do need more Christmas contributions. I had my own attempt a few years ago. It starts with a weird line, but it starts with, “From the squalor of a borrowed stable.” I think I got fed up of all the Christmas cards showing really quite a comfortable scene of the baby in some soft hay in a manger, going, “Oh, what a sweet scene that is.” But of course that would be far away from the reality of being born into poverty, into something that was not even a proper room. And that speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
Fernando Ortega: It does. I wrote one myself that I don’t like very much. People always ask me to sing it, but I can never remember how it goes. But anyway, that’s a good challenge for us I think.
I think the challenge though in something like that is there are so many cliches about that event, would be to find language that was new and startling, that captures how startling the moment is, and then by the use of unlikely words or something.
Stuart Townend: Yeah.