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Notes on the Notes – Dec. 2, 2012

This Sunday marks the beginning of the season of Advent.  This year, we will be exploring the journey to the manger.   The music for the Advent services will all work within the journeying theme.   The symbol for the start of our Advent journey is the Milestone.

This week we will be singing:

“Bless Now, O God, the Journey” – VU #633 – This lyrics for this hymn are from Sylvia Dunstun’s first collection “In Search of Hope and Grace.”  Born in 1955, Sylvia Dunstan attributes her love of song to her grandparents, who kept song alive in the family and entrusted Sylvia’s formal musical education to one of the nuns at the local convent. Sylvia began writing songs in the early seventies and soon after met Sister Miriam Theresa Winter, who encouraged her to write songs based on Scripture. Sylvia eventually realized that her talents did not lay with the music and concentrated instead on the lyrics.  In 1980, she was ordained by the Hamilton Conference of the United Church of Canada. During her career she served as a minister, a prison chaplain, and editor of a Canadian worship resource journal, Gathering.  Sylvia Dunstan died on July 25, 1993, almost four months after being diagnosed with liver cancer. She left behind a ministry that combined a compassionate concern for the needy and distraught with a consuming love of liturgy.

“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” –  VU#2 – Charles Wesley published this hymn in 1744.  He intended it as a Christmas hymn, but its theme of awaiting the arrival of the long-expected redeemer makes it suitable for Advent as well.  Like so many of Wesley’s texts, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” alludes to one or more Scripture passages in virtually every phrase. The double nature of Advent is reflected in this text, in which we remember Christ’s first coming even while praying for his return. Stanzas 1 and 2 recall Advent prophecies in the Old Testament; stanza 3 speaks of Christ’s birth and kingdom, and stanza 4 is a prayer for Christ’s rule in our hearts.

“Bethlehemtown” –  This anthem invites the listener to come away from all of the noise, glitter and frenzy of the commercial event that Christmas has become, and return to the quiet, simple worship of the babe in the manger.

“You Shall Be the Path” – Our Advent offering response comes from the 4th verse of the hymn “God of Day and God of Darkness” from“The Catholic Book of Worship III.”  The lyrics remind us that Jesus is the path to follow and that our hearts will always be restless until we see the face of God in each other.

“Come, Jesus, Prince of Peace” – This beautiful advent anthem will be sung by the Joyful Noise.  It is a prayer for the coming of Emmanuel that touches the heart with it’s lyrical simplicity.

“Bread for the Journey” – MV #202 – The mantra,  “Bread for the journey, food for the way.  Cup of God’s blessing, tomorrow, today.”  connects the act of communion with our journeying theme.  This hymn was written by Bruce Harding in 2000.

“Lord Jesus, You Shall Be My Song”-  VU #641 – Both the text and tune of this hymn were composed in 1961 by a member of Les Petites Soeurs de Jesus and the hymn was adopted by the community at L’Arche.  It was translated from French by Stephen Somerville and appeared in “Songs for a Gospel People” as well as in “Voices United.”

“Travel On, Travel On” – VU #647.  Each week we will be using a different verse of this hymn as our benediction response on our Advent journey.  This song is by the well-known British folk singer, Sydney Carter.  Other hymns you might know by this composer include:  “I Danced in the Morning When the World Was Begun” (Lord of the Dance), “Bitter Was the Night,” and “One More Step Along the World I Go.”  Carter is quoted as saying, “Bibles, legends, history are signposts: they are pointing to the future, not the past. Do not embrace the past or it will turn into an idol.” Jesus was central to his experience, but not, in his words, “the official Jesus – but the Jesus who is calling you to liberty, to the breaking of all idols including the idol which he himself has become.” 

Before the service we will get in the Christmas spirit by singing the carols:

“Good Christian Friends, Rejoice” – VU #35 –  In Dulci Jubilo is among the oldest and most famous of the “macaronic” songs, one which combines Latin and a vernacular language such as English or German.  Five hundred years later, this carol became the inspiration for the 1853 English paraphrase by John Mason Neale, Good Christian Men, Rejoice.  In Voices United,  the text has been revised to make it more inclusive.

“Angels, from the Realms of Glory” –  VU #36 – “Angels, From the Realms of Glory” first appeared as a poem in James Montgomery’s newspaper on December 24, 1816.  Later it was published in a hymnal entitled Montgomery’s Original Hymns.  The composer of this tune, know as “Regent Square,” was Henry Smart, born on October 26,1813, in London, England.  Although largely self-taught, Smart was recognized as one of the finest organist and composers in the British Isles in his day.  He was totally blind for the last fifteen years of his life, yet he continued to play and write some of his finest music.  “Regent Square” was written during this period of blindness.  The tune was composed especially for a hymnal being compiled by Dr. Hamilton, pastor of London’s Regent Square Presbyterian Church, known as the “Cathedral of Presbyterianism” in London.

and “Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing” – VU #48 – This carol was written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), younger brother of John Wesley. Charles was a hymn writer and a poet, also known as one of the poeple who began the Methodist movement in the Church of England. The original version of the song appeared in 1739 in a book called Hymns and Sacred PoemsInteresting Fact: To celebrate the 400th anniversary invention of the printing press, Felix Mendelssohn composed a cantata in 1840 called Festgesang or “Festival Song”. The melody of Mendelssohn’s cantata was then used by William H. Cummings and he adapted it to the lyrics of Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” The version of the carol we now know was published in 1856.


Categories: Notes on the Notes