Monday, December 2: Andrea Thomas

I’m consistently amazed when we find ourselves wrapped up in something so much bigger than we initially realized or thought was possible.

My very best effort could have never have brought to pass the events that had to happen for me to meet up with and eventually collaborate with the artists that have now become The Vigil Project. When you’re pursuing something good, true, or beautiful and your best effort couldn’t produce the fruit that you’re seeing, sometimes it’s a really strong indicator that it’s not you that’s doing it! There’s a little phrase I’ve borrowed called “The God-margin”…and not to say that we haven’t worked hard because we absolutely have (and do!) but calling a spade a spade: the God-margin has been all over The Vigil Project. 

After our first album released into 2016 for Lent and Easter, our group, which barely had a name at this point and was best described as “ignorance on fire” at this stage in our journey, started receiving messages from all over the world with two major requests: the first was people asking if we would be willing to bring the songs that we had just released for Lent and Easter to their communities. That was the start of our first music tour (and it’s amazing to think that this Advent 2019 marks our 8th music tour…see what I mean…God margin!). And the second request we started to receive was people asking for us to do a similar project for the upcoming seasons of Advent and Christmas. I remember us as a group looking around at each other asking…”Are these things that we feel called to do?: Without hesitation, we all were all in on both fronts!

As we prepared for our second series for Advent and Christmas, we really started to pray around the themes that we were going to write the songs about. And the theme we continued to come back to you was the theme of “family”. Our desire was to create and write new music for the liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas, so we absolutely wanted it to remain very true to our Catholic identity, and also encompass this theme of family that kept coming to us in prayer. As I sat with that theme, and also with my own journey as an individual…what continued to come to me was a theme of “the ache”. I kept thinking about how the chosen people waited and yearned and longed for and ACHED for the long foretold Savior. They didn’t know when he would come; they didn’t know what it would look like exactly… And actually it ended up looking very different than they thought it would… A theme that God has taught me a whole lot about in my own life! And from reflecting on that yearning and longing and anticipation and ache… again, something I’m very familiar with my own life… Came this song called “In Need of a Savior”. 

I think sometimes as Catholics, we’re really good at sort of staying in the mindset of offering-it-up and reminding ourselves of the value and necessity of suffering. And that can be so beautiful and certainly has its place, but we’re also called to wait in joyful hope. So, this song begins by reflecting on what it must’ve been like to wait on the Lord, not knowing when the Savior would come, and to continue to choose hope even though you couldn’t necessarily sense or even know if that Savior would come in your lifetime. Can you imagine that?! To trust that all will be well and perfect with God at the helm, even if YOU didn’t get to see it happen. How often do I sit and wait on things in my own life that I have no control over, that I just have to trust in God’s timing? The first verse of this song says, “We stand in darkness, we wait on this holy night. Broken and helpless decendeth upon your light. Centuries waiting, we are at your mercy, Lord. Turn your gaze to your people in need of a Savior.” These lyrics speak of the ache of the people waiting on the hand of God. And the ache in my own heart, too.

It doesn’t stay there, though. The second verse moves into what I would call joyful anticipation… Almost sensing with the rhythm of the drums that come in on the second verse that our hearts beat with the hope that God does not leave us orphaned. That he does indeed make good on his promises to us. There is an adventure to abandonment to him. Even in the darkness when it’s hard…it’s such a beautiful thing. And that unknown can actually be exciting: “Our spirits rejoice as we wait, as we wait for you. God you are mighty, we beg that you make us anew. Centuries waiting, we ask that you now restore, and turn to your gaze to your people in need of a Savior.”

I was at my piano writing these lyrics, based on these reflections of the Israelites and my own heart…and then it was this beautiful realization of how this actually fit beautifully into the theme of the album, which surrounded the family. As a group we started talking about how (as much as it’s not an easy thing to talk about all the time) every single family has its own set of difficulties and dare I say dysfunction… Even though all of our families of course are beautiful and we’re grateful for them ( I literally feel like I have the best family in the entire world), and even *we* have plenty of moments of difficulty and dysfunction. And a lot of this dysfunction tends to come out during the holidays and during this season when everything is supposed to be super fun and festive. Oddly enough, it also tends to be when a lot of these things surface, as well. And sometimes there’s some anxiety and stress that comes with this season, as well, and ultimately with all of these themes kind of tying in from the chosen people all the way to 2019, the reality is that we can’t see what God sees. He is God, and we are not. We have to surrender to the will of God and trust that he is Sovereign and desires our good and works even in the hard stuff. If fact He CHOSE to come to earth in the messiest of circumstances. He could have come in ANY way he wanted to…and He decided to come in the filth and the difficulty and awkwardness of a cold and damp cave. Hardly the dwelling place for a King! 

But, that’s exactly what He did. And I think that speaks to the greater reality that He doesn’t come in spite of the mess. He comes because of the mess. Right smack dab in the middle of it. And he wants to do the same for the tough things in our lives too. And so from that second verse it brings us to the bridge of the song which is simply “Come Oh come Emanuel. Come O Lord in our hearts to dwell.” Jesus coming to us and God being with us is the ultimate remedy. It’s the ultimate mercy. It’s the ultimate love.

Beyond our understanding, God can bring so much beauty and so much goodness from even the most difficult situations… And that really permeates throughout the centuries. Just like the chosen people, we are all in need of a Savior. That’s at the heart of this song.

“In Need of a Savior”

We stand in darkness we wait on this holy night
Broken and helpless descendeth upon us Your light
Centuries waiting, we are at Your mercy, Lord
Turn Your gaze to Your people, in need of a Savior

Our Spirits rejoice as we wait, as we wait for You
God, You are mighty, we beg that You make us anew
Centuries waiting, we ask that You now restore
And turn Your gaze to Your people in need of a Savior

Come O Come, Emmanuel
Come O Lord in our hearts to dwell

We stand in darkness we wait on this holy night
Broken and helpless descendeth upon us Your light
Centuries waiting, we are at Your mercy, Lord
Turn Your gaze to Your people, in need of a Savior

Andrea Thomas is founding member, musician, and Co-Director of The Vigil Project, a collaboration of artists and nonprofit organization that makes music for the Catholic journey. You can find more information about Andrea’s music with the Vigil Project through their website, www.thevigilproject.com.

For access to the song, “In Need of a Savior,” please visit the song’s video.

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