Today’s hymn from Sing Praise is the second of two on consecutive days by the Scottish hymnwriters John Bell & Graham Maule, both in the series on social justice issues. Both of them invite us to join our own concerns with those of God.
This one, “Jesus Christ is waiting”, has a much more active Jesus than yesterday’s. He is pictured in various actions, beginning with ‘waiting in the streets’. Is ‘waiting’ an action? In Christian theology, yes. Waiting can be about anticipation, praying into a situation knowing that God will move when it’s the right time to do so and not before. The waiting here, though, is linked with loneliness, and we ask him to make us ‘fit to wait on him’ – a subtle pun on two meanings of ‘waiting’ in English. Are we the sort of waiters who stand around idle and lonely, or the sort of waiters (as in a restaurant) who work tirelessly to satisfy the needs of others who are lonely?
The other actions of Jesus are much more energetic: raging, healing, dancing, calling. Raging at life’s injustices, healing in response to need, dancing in triumph when goodness wins out, and calling for more people to follow his example. All these are seen in his life, indeed all are seen in his actions in the Temple: raging at the money-sellers, healing those excluded from the temple because of their disabilities, calling ‘on the last and greatest day of the feast’ (when surely there was dancing) for disciples to follow him, but also of course waiting on God in prayer.
What unites the words of the verses are that all these actions take place ‘in the streets’ – in the public realm, not in our private prayer rooms and chapels but where the need is and where our actions are visible. And that in each verse our response is to say “I am … too”: we share Jesus’ concerns and seek to copy his actions.
I think the choice of tune – ‘Noel Nouvelet’ – is just right. Its minor key suits the theme of dealing with injustice, but at the same time it has a lively dance rhythm (it’s described as a French carol tune) that goes with the image of Jesus dancing and calling in particular. The verses should be varied in pace and volume when sung – slower and quieter for ‘waiting and healing’, faster for ‘dancing’, louder for ‘raging and calling’.