In 1966, English musician John Gardner composed a joyful Christmas tune for his adaption of a medieval carol called “Tomorrow will be my dancing day.” Gardner’s version quickly gained world-wide popularity and if you search online, you will find recordings of various Choirs singing it with Christmas cheer.
The original carol uses a wonderful image to communicate the message of Christmas. Throughout all the verses, we hear our Lord Christ Jesus speaking in the “first person” calling us “my true love”. Verse by verse, the Lord takes us through his work for us in the plan of salvation: his birth, his baptism, his temptation, his rejection, his betrayal, his trial, his crucifiction, his descent into Hell, his resurrection and his ascension. And between each verse in the chorus, the Lord says, “Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love, this have I done for my true love.”
This is wonderful telling of the heart of God for us. In this carol, we are reminded that God is personally interested in each of us and that God dearly loves us. The carol is reminding us that the story of the manger, the cross and the empty grave is the greatest of love stories.
Then there is that “other image” used in this ancient carol: dancing! You may not know that dancing was once forbidden in some of our Lutheran Communities. Knowing that, you might not be surprised to learn that a carol about “dancing” was not well-known in our Lutheran Churches. But long before Sidney Carter wrote his popular folk song “Lord of the Dance”, this medieval carol was inviting us to consider God as a dancing partner, who moves with us, holding us fast, and bringing joy to each us us and to all the world, because our gracious God dearly loves us.
The carol begins, “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day”. This is the Lord speaking to each of us as we prepare for Christmas Day. “Tomorrow”, meaning Christmas day, will be the day that everything changes. From Christmas onwards, we will be caught up in “God’s dance” – which is life, salvation and the forgiveness of sin. From Christmas onwards, we know that God is with us and God is for us, in the baby born of Mary.
Let me end and send you to your Christmas worship and devotion with verse three of this ancient joyful carol “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day” (Remember this is intended to be our Lord speaking to you personally)
“In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.
Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.”
The Christmas Gospel declares to us, “All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Immanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’” (Matthew 1)