Last fall the pastor of my church asked me to write a song for the Festival of Lights, which is a big Christmas program he organizes at the Claremore, Oklahoma Seventh-day Adventist church. He’s been doing it for close to twenty years, and people come out in droves.
Anyway he asked me sometime in October, and I said I couldn’t make any guarantees, but I’d let him know if I was able to get something together. Well, December rolled around, and he called me a week before the concert, “Hey John, do you have a song ready for the program?” I told him that I hadn’t gotten anything done, and he would have to count me out this time.
“Why don’t you just see if you can make it happen in these next few days. I’ll leave you in the program for now. I think you’ll come up with something.”
So the next week, Wednesday night (and the program was the following Saturday night), I got a song idea, and I was excited about it. I started writing the song on Thursday, finished it Friday, performed it for the first time for a full house at the Christmas program Saturday, and then on Monday I went into the studio to record it for the album. So this song was really a last minute song in every way.
In the song I explore the idea that everything is part of the great chain of cause and effect, and if you trace anything backwards from link to link, you eventually come to God. That’s where the chain suddenly stops, because God has no cause behind Him. He is what philosophers call the “First Cause” or the “Uncaused Cause”. This is reflected in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word…” God didn’t come into being, He didn’t become what He is, He simply was.
In the song, I start with my guitar, and trace it back. Everything up to “From a seed that Noah planted” is as close to the truth as I could get, but from that point on I fill in the blanks with my imagination, tracing my guitar all the way back to God. Then comes the turning point in the song. Once we reach God, we reverse directions and start moving forward through the creation, the fall, and the first promise, right down to the coming of the Promised One. And this is where things get interesting, because “the Word [who just was, who didn’t become what He is] became flesh and dwelt among us.” God who stands at the back of all things, the first link in the chain, stepped into the chain by being born a human baby. Now He isn’t just the First Link, He’s also another link like you or me, with a mother, who had a mother and father, who had mother’s and father’s and so on, and Luke traces Jesus’ “chain” all the way back to “Adam, who was the son of God.” The One who created Adam, Himself became a Son of Adam.
This is the Christmas story, the First Cause stepping into the chain, becoming a New Link, healing the whole chain of humanity, and reconnecting man to God.
I bought this guitar at a chain store in Rockford, Illinois.
They ordered it from a factory out east in Pennsylvania.
The spruce board from which they made the top came from a mill in Washington.
This very piece of wood, they milled from a log 16 feet thick.
That log had come to them from the forests of Alaska,
Where a mighty tree was felled that once stood proud 300 feet tall.
For 500 years that tree had grown.
And it grew from a seed that fell from a cone,
That grew on a tree, that grew from a seed
That fell from a tree, that grew from a seed,
That fell from a tree, that grew from a seed,
That fell from a tree, and on and on… from a seed that Noah planted.
He planted that seed next to the ark on the mountain where it landed.
That seed rode out the great flood in father Noah’s pocket.
It had fallen to his feet some time before while he was cutting timber.
It broke his heart to cut it down, and when it fell it shook him sore.
That tree was older far than he, older yet than Adam.
It was numbered with the First Ones that had sprung from the Word of God.
“In the beginning was the Word.
“And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
“All things were made by Him, and without Him
Nothing was made that was made.”
God said, “Let Us make man in Our image. Let’s give this world to them.”
He put the man and woman in a garden He had planted.
But Eve believed the serpent’s lie, and Adam turned his back on God.
So God cursed the snake, He said, “I will put enmity between you.
“Between your seed and her Seed. He will crush your head.
“You will strike His heel, He will feel the sting of death, but He will rise.”
And soon the woman had a son,
How she hoped in her heart that he would be the one.
And so it went for age upon age,
’Til Gabriel came to Mary and said,
“That Holy One who will be born to you
“Will be called the Son of God.”