Soundtracks of musicals are like, half the musical. Some argue still for a higher percentage. For a time before Covid-19 and before Hamilton: An American Musical was announced to open in Sydney, Australia, the Hamilton soundtrack and clips on YouTube were the closest some of us got to experience the musical wonder. Like many Hamilton enthusiasts around the world, I eagerly refreshed the Disney+ app on my phone on Friday until the word ‘PLAY’ appeared without ‘TRALIER’ next to it. Since 2020 hasn’t exactly been an easy year, the Broadway production-turned-film seemed like a timely gift from the streaming executive powers to be and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s team. I decided to save the two hour and forty minute production (including a much appreciated intermission that would’ve saved many bladders during Avengers: End Game) for the following #stayathome Saturday evening. I expected entertainment; I received instead a revelation about the power of imagination and how we underemphasise it in our Bible reading.
Back to Saturday night. Two songs into the show, I found myself inexplicably emotional. Maybe it was the cocktail of Panadeine Forte and Nurofen I took that night to recover from a wisdom tooth extraction earlier in the week. Maybe it was PMS. Or maybe it’s because the soundtrack that I had heard, blasting from my brother’s room in 2015 and that has stayed on my Spotify rotation ever since, has come to new life. Set design and lighting cleverly frame every beat. Costumes and colour brilliantly accentuate every note. Choreography and visual expressions wonderfully extend every word. Interactions between each character now behold several angles, adding to the depth in their sung dialogue. Such is the power of musical theatre: words become songs become stories. The soundtrack becomes a reminder and glimpse of a greater reality. A reality you can re-live in the car, at home, with friends or on your own in the bath tub. A reality that is, in actual fact, an interpretation of a (less musical) reality that played out once upon a time in history. An interpretation that will lead you down several deep Wikipedia search holes concerning American history of the 18th and 19th century.
Thus is the power of imagination: give us a glimpse of something bigger than ourselves and our souls go wild! In hearing the experiences of other friends and family who also laughed, cried and will one hundred percent continue listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, it seems obvious – those who knew the soundtrack were the most affected by the Disney+ release. No doubt the actual stage production would bring on new emotional depths, for sure. Safe to say, the film helps us to realise that imagination is crucial in a time of uncertainty, lockdowns and loss. I started to wonder what other greater realities I’m investing into, hoping for greater satisfaction. This led me down a path of wondering about what I actually spend my time wondering about. #deep. Sending a text becomes a promise that a post lockdown meeting in person will come. Browsing for new clothes online becomes a promise that I would be happier if I had more things. Completing a HIIT workout online (okay…half a workout) becomes a promise that I will be in better health. Searching through Airbnb listings become promises of travel to new places. Listening to music becomes a promise that I can control how I feel with just a few clicks of a button. Most of these things seem incredibly trivial. So I began to wonder about faith-based practices in my life and am astonished at why I spend lesser time on these things. Praying to God becomes a promise that He is a God who hears and answers. Going to church becomes a promise that being a Christian means you belong to a family that God is building. And Bible reading? How might the power of imagination strengthen this habit for both the present and greater realities to come?
If the brilliant Hamilton soundtrack can cause one’s soul to look forward to a film release, how might the genealogies of Israel’s men and women of faith (Genesis 10; 1 Chronicles 1:1 – 9:1; Matthew 1:1-17) cause us to look forward to meeting the God who created them all? How might the calming of oceans (Mark 4:35 – 41) and the rising and the falling of empires (Judges, Jeremiah 20 – 22, Romans 13:1-7) cause us to look forward to meeting the God who is sovereign over all? How might the healing and redemption of society’s unclean (Mark 1:40 – 41; John 4:7 – 25; John 9:1 – 7) cause us to look forward to meeting the God who has compassion? How might the murder and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 18 – 20) cause us to look forward to meeting our Saviour face to face? Make the most of God’s gift of enternity with Him by getting to know him now. The Bible is the richest soundtrack there is to stir our imaginations. We would come to find it is a great deal more and leaves us wanting, hoping for more too. How might you find yourself when you hear the familiar songs of Revelation 4 sung in person by heavenly choirs? Will they be familiar words?
Just as a soundtrack can cause us to look forward to a future reality, so too can the Bible. Where it differs is the imagination the Bible commands; and how these imaginations will be more than satisfied when we get to meet our Saviour face to face.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. – 1 Corinthians 13:12
Interested in sparking your imagination? This Bigger Questions podcast may help – How can a death 2000 years ago help me live today?
Title image: All rights belong to Disney+, a Direct-to-Consumer & International subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company.