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Notes on the Notes – December 9, 2012

This week is the second Sunday of Advent.  We will continue on our journey to the manger using the following music:

“Man in the Mirror” – This song, made popular by Michael Jackson, reminds us to be the change we want to see in the world.  The children of Bible Adventures will be sharing this song today as the message fits so appropriately with White Gift Sunday.

“There’s a Voice in the Wilderness” (VU #18) –   This hymns reminds us of John the Baptist, who heralded the coming of the new Messiah.   Often, on our journey,  we need someone to point us in the right direction.   This hymn commemorates the union in 1925 of the Canadian Congregational and Methodist churches with a large portion of the Canadian Presbyterian churches to form the United Church of Canada.  The author, James Lewis Milligan, a journalist and lay Methodist preacher, was the director of public relations for the uniting churches between 1922 and 1925.  Henry Hugh Bancroft, organist and choirmaster of All Saints’ Cathedral (Anglican) in Edmonton, composed the music.

Song of Zechariah (Blest Be the God of Israel)” – (VU #901) – This hymn is a paraphrase of the Song of Zechariah, which we will be reading today.  The words are by Michael Arnold Perry (1942-1996), who was one of the UK’s leading hymnwriters of the 20th century.

“Star of Hope” – This beautiful anthem by Barbara Furman and Patti Drennan refers to the Christmas star as our guiding light on the journey to the manger.   The message of the song is best summed up by the chorus:

“Star of Hope, Light everlasting, grant us your glory, and give us your sight. Shine in our hearts, illumine our journey.  Lead us to Jesus, the Source of all Light.”

“One More Step Along the World I Go” (VU #639) – This song is written by English folk singer, Sydney Carter, who also wrote our Advent benediction response, “Travel On, Travel On” (see Notes on the Notes – December 2)

Carols –

“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” (VU #44) – Edward Hamilton Sears, a Unitarian minster, wrote this text during a period of social and political turmoil in Europe and in the United States.  It was first published in Boston in 1849.  For more on the history of this carol click here:  http://biblestudycharts.com/HH_It_Came_Upon.html

“Jesus, Our Brother”(VU #56) – This French carol, also know as “The Friendly Beasts,” dates back to the 12th century.  The melody was was often used with different words in a liturgical play, where Mary rode into the cathedral on a donkey.   Robert Davis (1881-1950) apparently wrote the words that we normally associate with this tune in the 1920s. The first publication was in 1934, but the song is probably older. Unfortunately, almost nothing of known of Mr. Davis.   Hear the song sung by a children’s choir with live animals on  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Po10YPi4Hc

Angels We Have Heard on High”(VU # 38) – “Les Anges dans no campagnes” may date from the 18th century.  As with many traditional carols, the author and composer are unknown.  The carol was first published in 1855, and gained great popularity in the first part of the 20th century.   The beautiful carol tells the story of Christ’s birth, when the angel choir  told the good news to nearby shepherds. The chorus, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,”  reflects the chorus of the angel choir that long-ago Christmas night.

Many years ago shepherds in the hills of southern France had a Christmas Eve  custom of calling to one another, singing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” each from his own hillside. The traditional tune that the shepherds used may have been from a late Medieval Latin chorale. It became the magnificent chorus of “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

The carol seems to be of eighteenth-century origin, since it was known in England by 1816. At that time James Montgomery wrote his carol “Angels From the Realms of Glory”, originally basing it on the tune of “Les anges dans nos campagnes.” “Angels From the Realms of Glory” was sung to the French tune until Henry Tomas Smart wrote a new tune for it in 1967.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” was first published in France in 1855. The  English translation came seven years later, in Henri Frederick’s Crown of  Jesus Music. This 1862 translation differed from the form we use now. The  version we use today was first printed in a 1916 American carol collection  entitled Carols Old and Carols New.


Categories: Notes on the Notes