Skills you can’t put on your resume

#1 Ability to change a diaper with one hand (this skill is disappearing rapidly)

#2 Ability to detangle nearly any knot

#3 Knowing all the words to two or three or four verses of most common Christmas carols

Well, at least these don’t fit on my usual professional resume. What skills do you have that don’t really fit on your resume?

I grew up singing Christmas carols with my mother. She has been in lots of choirs, especially church choirs, over her life time. She has a pretty voice and is not snobby about singing. When our family went on long car trips, we would always sing together. One December night, probably in 1984, the two of us were driving home in a snowstorm through a windy canyon. We tried to stop at an inn, but there was no room. Seriously. We drove very slowly and sang all the Christmas carols we knew very loudly. Good thing we know a lot of them. Her more than me even. Eventually we caught up to a snow plow and followed it into town safely.

This last Sunday before meeting for worship, I joined a few other Friends for singing Christmas carols. Our meeting has regular hymn singing before meeting for worship on second and fourth Sundays, but in December, we sing every week, focusing on Christmas songs. This year, I have been working on learning to sing the alto line on hymns, which is more suited to my voice, but since my mother is a soprano, I only learned the melodies as a child. So far, I can do it if I have another alto to listen to and if I already know the words.

At one point the pianist, my Friend Elizabeth, told us briefly about the Christmas she spent in Iraq in 2001. I recalled the year when the U.S. invaded Panama on December 20, 1989. I was living in Mexico at the time. On the main street of Oaxaca there was a public notice board. The week after Christmas the board was filled with an editorial statement asking for prayers for the people of Panama “quienes pasaron la Noche Buena velando sus muertos en vez del nacimiento del Niño Santo.” (who stayed up all night on Christmas Eve mourning their dead instead of celebrating the birth of the Holy Child.) Elizabeth turned to this hymn, reminding us that we are all, each of us, “captive Israel.”

O Come, O Come Emmanuel!

O come, O come, Emmanuel!
Redeem thy captive Israel,
That into exile drear is gone
Far from the face of God’s dear Son.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Branch of Jesse! Draw
The quarry from the lion’s claw;
From the dread caverns of the grave,
From nether hell, thy people save.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, thou Dayspring bright!
Pour on our souls thy healing light;
Dispel the long night’s lingering gloom,
And pierce the shadows of the tomb.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Lord of David’s Key!
The royal door fling wide and free;
Safe guard for us the heav’nward road,
And bar the way to death’s abode.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Adonai,
Who in thy glorious majesty
From that high mountain clothed with awe
Gavest thy folk the elder law.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

I didn’t learn this one at home, but the melody of it is haunting me still today.

UPDATE: After I posted this it occurred to me that perhaps it was not as obvious to everyone as it seemed to me why this is such an important hymn for Quakers.

Emmanuel is another name for Jesus, implying the element of God within each of us.

If each of us is “captive Israel”, that means that each of us is captive to the Empire, whether that be ancient Egypt or Caesar or the modern United States of America, or metaphorically the Empire of sin and death, of materialism and violence. This hymn reminds to rejoice because God will come to live with us, the Christ within shall free us from our captivity. It is an Advent hymn in the cycle of the Christian Church because it reminds us that we are still awaiting the birth of the Christ Child. We are still waiting to live fully in the kingdom of God. As Quakers we know experimentally that Christ has come and yet we know that we have not found Christ. Not really, not quite, not yet.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Another post which contributed to my thinking on this topic from Heather Kirk-Davidoff.

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Blogger kathy said...

I love this song too. Emmanuel, God with us, is such a powerful reason to hope.

12/07/2007 10:10 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hi, Kathy. Your post that connected the "not yet", the now and the end times was also very helpful to me.

12/07/2007 11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I had heard at one point that Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel is the only (or one of the few, I'm not sure which) hymn that is appropriate to sing during Advent--all the others are supposed to be saved for Christmas proper. It has always been a favorite of mine, too.

BTW, I'm a singer, too, and know quite a few obscure Christmas carols, including the second and third verses, and various descants (which I am now rapidly losing the ability to sing!).

Take care!


12/11/2007 11:18 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Yes, Mia, I could see that. In Tomie dePaola's Book of Christmas Carols, which I recommend to anyone who sings carols with multiple generations, O Come Emmanuel is the first song in the book.

It also quotes this carol from Wind in the Willows:

Villagers all, this frosty tide,
Let your doors swing open wide,
Though wind may follow, and snow beside,
Yet draw us in by your fire to bide;
Joy shall be yours in the morning!

Another Friend of mine, Stephen, knows all kinds of bass line harmonies. It is a joy to sing in harmony. I wish I could do it better.

12/11/2007 12:34 PM  
Blogger Paul L said...

Re your resume: I've always wanted to send one with what Siddhartha told the merchant when he needed a job: I can think. I can wait. And I can fast.

And thank you for raising up the capitivity theme. One of the many benefits of singing from the Sacred Harp was to become (re)acquainted with the powerful poetry and psalms inspired by the Babylonian Captivity and the Jews' long waiting for liberation, to go home. I don't think you can even begin to understand the meaning of Christmas if you don't understand Babylon.

Some will think it disingenuous for someone like me, with all the social privileges that I enjoy, to feel enslaved and estranged in this country, but I do. Especially this time of year. And I, too, find that singing the songs is the most powerful way to remind me of where my home is, even if it emphasizes that I'm not there at the moment. It is comforting to find a kindred soul who understand.

12/18/2007 5:12 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Well, I don't know if I could fast, I've never really tried. Maybe next Lent...

I'm still singing this hymn daily.

Today, my Friend Rachel pointed out to me, without knowing about this post, that the song O Come Emmanuel is basically the same as the O Antiphons that are sung by the Roman Catholic church at this time of year.

12/18/2007 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Brother
It is another good time that our lord heaven have protected from any evil spriest i greet you in Jesus name how are you.
I am very much happy to know you and you ministry as it is the will of God that i will know you and werk together as bro thees and sisters in Christ as i go through you teachings in your web side were so interesting and now i what you to share you ideas with your ministry. may the lord bless you as i am hoping to hear from you soon.
God bless you
Pastor Rose

12/12/2011 12:17 AM  

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