Notes on the Notes – Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012
This week is the 3rd Sunday of Advent. On our journey, we are anticipating the excitement of coming home.
The hymns we will be using in worship are:
“Hark the Glad Sound” (VU #29) – This joyous hymn announced the Saviour’s imminent arrival. The text is a paraphrase of Luke 4:18-19, written by the Reverend Philip Doddridge on December 28, 1738. Doddridge was a pastor of a Dissenting church, which means that he did not accept the authority of the Church of England. He wrote this hymn and many others –– perhaps 400 in all – not for publication but to be sung by his congregation. His congregation didn’t use hymnals, but instead had someone sing the hymn line by line from the pulpit with the congregation repeating each line in turn.
“O How Joyfully” – Originally a hymn of praise to the Virgin Mary, “O Sanctissima,” the text has undergone many tranlations and changes; in several instances it has emerged with Christmas words, as in the popular German carol “O du froehliche.” In 1788 the German philosopher, theologian, and poet Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803) brought the melody to Germany after a trip to Italy. Thought to have originally been a Sicilian fisherman’s song, the melody was used for the Latin hymn “O Sanctissima.” Around 1816 Johannes Daniel Falk (1768-1826) wrote the German lyrics for what soon became one of the most popular German Weihnachtslieder. The English version is known as “O How Joyfully.”
“An Advent Gospel” – This anthem, by Michael Barrett and Lloyd Larson, anticipates the excitement of Jesus’ coming to earth through the opening lyrics: “There’s a great alleluia comin’ to the world! The angels gonna shout and sing, ‘Glory, glory!'”
“People, Look East” – (VU #9) – “People, Look East” was written by Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965) and was first published as “Carol of Advent” in Part 3 of “Modern Texts Written for or Adapted to Traditional Tunes” in The Oxford Book of Carols, 1928. Farjeon, a native of London, was a devout Catholic who viewed her faith as “a progression toward which her spiritual life moved rather than a conversion experience.” (The Presbyterian Hymnal Companion, p. 323) She achieved acclaim as an author of children’s nursery rhymes and singing games, and is best remembered for her poem “Morning Has Broken.” BESANÇON, an ancient carol, first appeared in Christmas Carols New and Old, 1871, as the setting for “Shepherds, Shake Off Your Drowsy Sleep,” and was titled CHANTONS, BARGIÉS, NOUÉ, NOUÉ.
“Once in Royal David’s City” – (VU #62) – This hymn was written in 1848 by Mrs C F Alexander (author of ‘All things bright and beautiful’ and ‘There is a green hill’), with the aim of explaining to children the mystery of the Incarnation as described in the Apostles’ Creed. It was published in 1849.
The tune, ‘Irby’ dating from the following year, is by H J Gauntlett. This carol is famous for opening the annually broadcast Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge, where the first verse is always sung with heart-stopping purity by a lone treble.
“Joy to the World” – (VU #59) – Our Christmas season would hardly seem complete without the singing of Joy to the World, the most joyous of all the carols. Yet Isaac Watts, its author, never intended it to be a Christmas carol at all. Rather, this text is a paraphrase of Psalm 88:4-9 and was published as part of his “Psalms of David Imitated” in 1719, which contained paraphrases of many of the Psalms in New Testament language. Isaac Watts is also the author of the lyrics for “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” The tune, ANTIOCH, is often attributed to George Frideric Handel, but is in fact derived from an English tune know as COMFORT published in the early 1830s.
“Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” – (VU #58) – “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” probably dates to the late nineteenth century, its origins being in the Polish carol “W zlobie lezy (He Lies in the Cradle)”. That anonymous effort was first published in 1908 in a book of Polish carols and soon drew attention in Europe and America. Edith M. Reed made an English-language version of it in 1921, entitling it “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” words that fit the vocal line better than the more correct translation given above. The text tells of the scene at Christ’s birth, with oxen present and angels hovering above the manger.