Thursday, December 31, 2009

We tip our hat to the New Year

During the Depression, though money was scarce, folks saved a quarter to attend the 'picture show' matinee on the weekend. They spent a few blessed hours removed from the grueling grind life had become and immersed themselves in fantasy scenes as far removed from daily life as they could get. I think it is a natural inclination to try and wring out hope from something pretty among the grit, something fanciful in the face of grimness.

I was watching youtube clips of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in 1935's "Top Hat." One of the most famous songs in the movie is "Dancing Cheek to Cheek." The lyrics Astaire sings speak of perfect happiness, more than the highest mountain peak, that all else has faded as he nears the girl of his dreams, that nothing can compare to her when they are dancing cheek to cheek. "Heaven, I'm in heaven" Astaire sings, as he and Ginger glide smoothly over opulent sets with marble and fountains and in floaty dresses with feathers and smart tuxedos.


The producers of these Depression-era extravaganzas knew what the audience needed, what they wanted. Moreover, they know what they would pay for. A fantasy so far away from reality as could be put into visual form. Something so utterly beautiful so joyful and lilting in music and dance, so gorgeous their eyes would feast on what they saw but almost be unable to comprehend it. Women swept up by a handsome man in a tuxedo... loving couples dancing so lightly they seemed to float, released from gravity to soar into the clouds... gowns adorned with feathers so lush they are almost one with the person wearing them. Sure beats filling Twinkies in the factory every day.

"When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek."
"A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance." (Ecc 3:4)

Irving Berlin wrote all the music especially for Top Hat, including "Dancing Cheek to Cheek." The set on which the couple dances cheek to cheek, dubbed "The White Set", was designed to mimic the Venice canal. It was so large it required two adjoining sound stages at RKO's Gower studio. The entire length was over 300 feet. Up to that time it was the largest set ever built on the RKO lot. Depression-era movie-goers were fascinated by such depictions of wealth and extravagance so far beyond their dreams and imaginings they lined up for blocks just to see it portrayed.

"Heaven, I'm in Heaven,  And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak; And I seem to find the happiness I seek"
"My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God." (Psalm 84:2)

This movie has the famous feather dress that Astaire hated. The feathers would float off and land on his tux so the crew had to individually sew each feather onto the dress so they would stay on as they whirled over the floor. But it did make Ginger look like an angel. This same scene was shown to death row convict John Coffey in "The Green Mile." Granted his last wish, the scene of reality inside a Depression era Louisiana death row movie room versus the glittering scenes on the screen, brought tears to the convict, who said wonderingly, "They's like angels, jes' like in heaven." We all want to cling to something lovely in the time of hardship.

"I want my arms about you, Those charms about you, Will carry me through...Right up to heaven, I'm in heaven..."
"And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." (Acts 1:9)

The bible tells us much about heaven but the few direct descriptions of what it looks like are hard to comprehend. A perfect and joyful groom awaits us, hand extended and veritably floating on the clouds of heaven. Stephen saw it - "But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. "What a picture! He is waiting for us! In glory, with hand extended! He will clothe us in white garments and wipe the tears from our eyes!

"The White Set" will be lit and glittering with the Lord's own light. Wealth beyond measure awaits us, treasures untold and unimaginable. We will wear garments of spotless white, live in serene happiness under our own vine. The city in which we will dwell will be laid with jewel-encrusted stones under gates of the largest pearl - luminously open to allow His bride entry.

"And the cares that hung around me through the week seem to vanish like a gambler's lucky streak"
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28)

No one knows when the moment will happen when He calls us to Him with a shout, with a trumpet, with the voice of an archangel. No one knows when the full number of the Gentiles will come in. I hope that it will be soon, at least in 2010 if not ten minutes from now. As the New Year ticks over tonight, I look eagerly to my Savior in hope that 2010 will be the year that time will be no more.

As times get harder we tend to look for escape, whether in the form of electronic games, television, or movies. The greatest escape there is, is the bible - telling us of things beyond imagining. Amazing stories of battles and warriors and miracles. Read of Miriam's dancing. David's songs. Escape into the lives of other hardships such as Moses being chased by all of Pharaoh's army or Paul beaten and dragged to the city gates and left for dead. When you want to imagine The White Set, turn to Revelation and see what He is creating for us. When you are worried about supply read Matthew 6.

Read the glorious things. Make a New Year's resolution to escape into the bible's truths. If you know Him, sing, "Heaven...I'm in heaven. And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak; And I seem to find the happiness I seek." This year, make a resolution that when you are feeling down or depressed, weary from hardships, that you will read of glory. Escape into the truth! It is far more unimaginable than any escapism movie. It brings far more lasting relief than a matinee! YOu really want an escape into a movie? How about these?

This one - only 40 (devastatingly wonderful) seconds


Or this one, 5 minutes long:



Happy New Year friends. I hope if you experience hardship this year, that you rely on the Holy Spirit to strengthen you, and if you do not know Jesus I hope the seed planted within you blooms into the most wonderful fruit: the Truth of the Good News.

1 comment:

  1. Happy New Year to you, Elizabeth. Thank you for being faithful to Him who inspires you each day. May He bless you with all of His best gifts in 2010!

    Peace be upon you.

    Kim

    ReplyDelete

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