Jesus and all that jazz

Jazz is creative, unpredictable; it can be moody, raw, smooth, emotional. I find it authentic, real, in the moment. I love it.

My wife loves classical music: ordered, structured, refined; it moves her emotionally, touches her creatively.

My friend Scott Olson is a saxophone player who was trained both classically and in jazz. He would note that a classical composer writes out note for note what each instrument is to play. Each musician reads their score where every crescendo, adagio, forte’ is prescribed. The conductor has the master score and leads the orchestra to play together, to blend their instruments to create what the composer has created.

But a jazz band is different. The band has a theme, a key — and the musicians improvise around that theme. The sax will take the lead, then the piano, the bass, the drums – back and forth they go responding to each other – building the tune. They feel the music, they create, they get the vibe. Jazz is unpredictable, takes you to places you have not been before.

I wonder if we look at the story of the birth of Jesus as a symphony. All scripted, ordered, structured like a Christmas pageant. The characters all show up in order, in costume, the angels sing, the lambs bleat. Jesus is born. Then come the shepherds, the wise men, Herod. We see the hundreds of prophecies that were fulfilled.

I would like to suggest that the arrival of Jesus is more like jazz. God had a grand theme: The Salvation of the World. And that theme was created before the foundation of the world.

This is the song that followed: God says to Abraham, ‘Leave home, I’ll guide you and make a nation of you’ … And off he and Sarah go to begin to establish a people from whom the messiah will come and later, up pops an angel one night to a village girl (Luke 1: 28-38) and the angel says ‘You have been chosen to bear the Messiah’ and the village girl says ‘YES, do to me as you will’ and steps out of her determined life into the unknown. Joseph is given the lead as he discovers his godly fiancé is pregnant by God. The tension builds but he says ‘Yes’ to this tune and plays on. An inconvenient, badly timed trip to Bethlehem, no rooms, a stable, a birth, shepherds, wisemen, more angels…. It was a wild piece of jazz, an improbable, fated score.

God, the jazz master, is still playing improbable tunes with our lives. To a young couple in Michigan, he says ‘Leave home with your baby…. follow me.’ We said yes and end up in the interior of Papua New Guinea among tribal people. The beat changed: suffering, loneliness, miracles, deliverance, prayers answered and unanswered…40 years later, we end up in Palm Beach County.

If we had insisted on a symphony, pre-written, all the parts defined who knows what our lives would have been like but certainly not the cool, crazy, adventure we have experienced. It is human nature to want to control our lives, to manage the details, to determine our destiny… to write our own symphony.

But God invites us into his jazzy world – where faith in God and fellow musicians gives freedom, where you find the unexpected, new turns, adventures.

A note you didn’t expect. A pile of notes that pour out:

I have a friend named Dee. Dee is a shy person. One day, stopping for a fast food lunch, she observes the lady behind her scratching the bottom of her purse for enough change to buy her lunch. The Holy Spirit prompts Dee to be generous. She offers to buy lunch, then she says let’s eat together, then they talk, then faith is shared, then the new friend prays to receive Christ. Life unscripted, turns free formed but in sync with the jazz master.

Dee sees the hand of God orchestrating a life-changing experience for the two of them. Looking back Joy and I see God’s hand guiding, directing, providing, caring,


Read Luke 1:28 – 38