The final song in our next “When Swing Was King” program is Judy Garland’s gorgeous 1939 rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It is, as you well know, a hauntingly beautiful song, one that underscores the human yearning for home, beauty, innocence and wonder. Our audiences love it…and we do too.
Nevertheless, it must be said that when the song ends, the listener is left only with the yearning, a sweet wishful longing that there might be a place of safety and bliss “somewhere over the rainbow” instead of this dark, troublesome, and increasingly decadent world we live in now. Actually, there are many songs that touch our hearts in this same way, songs that resonate with our oh-so-human longing for beauty, love, purity, peace, perfection. “There’s a Place for Us.” “Somewhere, My Love.” “Rainbow Connection.” “A Summer Place.” “Up, Up and Away.” “Moon River.” “Bali Hai.” “There’s a New World Coming.”
What is behind this? I believe Randy Alcorn points to the answer in his marvelous book, Heaven. Writes Randy, “We are homesick for Eden. We're nostalgic for what is implanted in our hearts. It's built into us.” He adds, “Desire is a signpost pointing to heaven…I’ve never been to heaven, yet I miss it. Eden is in my blood. And the best things of earth are souvenirs of Eden, appetizers of the New Earth.”
Donald Bloesch in his Theological Notebook (1989) writes, “Man’s greatest affliction is not anxiety, or even guilt, but rather homesickness – a nostalgia or ineradicable yearning to be at home with God.”
I couldn't agree more with these remarks. Indeed, two of my favorite authors C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton also speak of his matter eloquently and often. The undeniable fact is that man is created in the image of God and is wired for paradise. We lost Eden through sin but God, in His great mercy and to glorify His Name, has offered mankind something even better than Adam’s garden. Through the promise of the gospel, the Lord offers us the wholeness, security, love, and bliss which will be ours forever in the New Jerusalem. Wow. And wow again.
So, while I certainly wouldn’t suggest you stop loving songs like “Moon River” or “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” I do urge you to remind yourself often of the rock-solid reality that is our eternal inheritance, one that the apostle Peter describes as “imperishable and undefiled [which] will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” And, in celebration of that immeasurably wonderful home that awaits us (a home that our Lord Jesus is personally creating and customizing for us!), may I offer you a song full of confident, joyful expectations of that stronger, weightier, infinitely more beautiful home beyond. Take a couple of minutes and listen to "I'll Fly Away."