U2’s “Yahweh,” an Advent Lament

U2’s 2004 album “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” ends with “Yahweh,” which contains several Advent themes.  It’s a prayer of self-dedication that names the world’s broken condition and looks forward to God’s coming redemption.

The album has a Scriptural shape, as does its predecessor, released in 2001, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.”  Both albums are meditations on life after the fall.

“All That You Can’t Leave Behind” ponders the dynamics of grace at work in a broken world.  The album’s opening and closing songs (“Beautiful Day” and “Grace”) form an inclusio highlighting this theme.

“How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb,” on the other hand, begins with “Vertigo,” which considers the confused state of creation and our bewildering experience in it.  Even though the human is shattered, however, we are inexorably drawn toward some sort of eschatological deliverance.

Hello hello
I’m at a place called Vertigo
It’s everything I wish I didn’t know
Except you give me something I can feel

Whereas “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” ponders God’s already-arriving redemptive work in the world, “Vertigo” kicks off the subsequent album by looking ahead to God’s future rescue.

“How To Dismantle,” then, is more of an Advent album, and “Yahweh” makes this explicit.

This is the first of three verses, each of which is a prayer of self-dedication:

Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes
And make them fit
Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt
And make it clean, clean
Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul
And make it sing

The chorus looks ahead to God’s coming deliverance with a longing fueled by creation’s pain:

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I’m waiting for the dawn

I’ve been playing the song regularly these days, especially over the last week.  I’ve adopted it, along with the one below, as a running Advent prayer.

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


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