A most welcome Trinitarian Advent song from Phil Keaggy
This post was contributed by worship leader Mike Hale.
With a more limited budget this year, I hadn’t planned on adding to my collection of Christmas music—that is, until Welcome Inn: a Phil Keaggy Christmas, caught my eye at the Fuller Seminary bookstore. Having witnessed several of Keaggy’s virtuoso performances first-hand, he’s a favorite of mine. His guitar playing is legendary, and he’s also a talented singer-songwriter (often said to sound a bit like Paul McCartney), so I couldn’t wait to hear this latest mostly original vocal/acoustic Christmas package (“In the Bleak Mid-Winter” and “Shades of Green and Red” are the only two instrumentals).
Surprise number one—my favorite of Phil’s originals on this CD isn’t a guitar-driven song. It’s the beautiful piano-based ballad “Father,” a reflective and worshipful song pointing to the love of the Triune God, and the roles of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the story of the coming of the long awaited Savior, as well as the role of Mary—who did not fear the will of God. The song also testifies to the Triune God’s love and favor that will include all those given to receive, believe, and as children, become heirs of eternal life.
Father, you promised mankindSurprise number two—the song “Father” isn’t really so new after all, as Keaggy told ChristianityToday,
You gave your word there’d be a Savior coming
He came, the fullness of time
Revealed the long awaited favor of your love
And there is no love quite like yours
Jesus, you are the Promise
You are the Bright and Morning Star in my life
You came to live among us
While you were found there lying in a manger
You were a stranger to this cold world
And to those who receive you
And to those who believe in you
You gave the right to be the children of God
And the heirs of eternity
O, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace
And Father, the Holy Spirit conceived the child within the womb of Mary
Your will, she didn’t fear it but she delighted in your perfect Wisdom
And there’s no Wisdom quite like yours
I wrote it 30 years ago in Paul Clark’s basement for someone's Christmas compilation, and I chose to keep it to myself. It stayed in my mind and heart. It amazes me that at this time, 30 years later, it found just the right "home."From the Creator’s heart to ours, the story continues finding a “home,” and Keaggy’s reflective Trinitarian song is most certainly welcome during this time of what Stephen Seamands has referred to as a Trinitarian renaissance of sorts—a continuing resurgence of interest in the Trinity beginning with Karl Barth and building even more momentum in recent decades.
In mentioning that Keaggy’s song is a ballad, and not a song intended for congregational singing, I’m reminded of a conversation with "retired" professor Eddie Gibbs last year. Dr. Gibbs (who is of course busier than ever) graciously sat down with me over a cup of coffee to talk about worship and an ever-changing church culture. He suggested perhaps it is time for praise and worship church programs to include greater use of ballads—stories put to music—sprinkled between congregational songs or even during sermons, allowing a congregation time to reflect on important messages presented by a soloist or group.
Perhaps Dr. Gibbs is right. Phil Keaggy’s “Father” is surely one such example of a song we are blessed to reflect upon, as the Spirit reminds us of the Father’s love and life known and shared through the past, present and future coming of the promised Son named Jesus. Merry Christmas everyone!