This week begins our Advent midweek worship series, “Preparing the Way in Song.” Each passage represented in our series highlights a different function of how songs were used to convey messages about God to the people. Frequently these songs accompany a major shift in culture, serving as a frame for understanding where God is at work in the midst of tragedy or pointing to hope at the change God is yet to do. These songs are liturgical narratives, often being repeated by faith communities for generations to come.
Our first week we encounter two songs of praise by Moses and Miriam. They are considered to be some of the oldest historical passages in Hebrew Scripture. While presumed to be written down prior to the documenting of the creation stories, the use of water imagery suggests that the oral tradition of the creation stories was prevalent in the culture and influenced the mythological tone of these hymns.
Moses and Miriam’s songs serve as a liturgical ritual to reflect upon the dramatic experience of the crossing of the sea, all the while paralleling the events of the Passover. In the history of tradition, it is likely that Miriam’s song came first when used in the liturgy, serving as an antiphon (or refrain) to reinforce the thanksgiving voiced by the people.  The assembly would join Miriam’s words as an echoing refrain, breaking up the Moses’ song into sections. We sometimes follow that structure in our own liturgy when we use a refrain in our Psalmody. Also, Miriam is referred to as a prophet as the text introduces her song, suggesting that a “hymnic celebration by the people is a prophetic witness to God.” 
While researching these songs, I was surprised to learn from the Jewish side of my family that Moses and Miriam’s songs are still used as liturgical narratives in synagogues today. It has caused me to ponder on many of the liturgical narratives that we use in Christian worship that have carried through the ages, such as singing Mary the mother of Jesus’ hymn of praise at evening vespers.
Our liturgy provides us with a frame work for encountering God in evocative ways in the midst of being in a community of believers. We unite with our ancestors throughout the ages as we return to the liturgical narratives found in our scriptures, bringing them to life in the present with the sound of our voices.
As we eagerly await the babe in the manger, we stay united in the fulfilled promises of God throughout time through the gift of song.
Join us next week as we encounter Hannah’s Song.
 Terence E. Fretheim, Exodus: Interpretation: a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, 2010 ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), page 161
 Mark S. Smith, Exodus (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011), page 64