Preparing for Worship - December 11, 2016

This Sunday we light the third advent candle and continue in our series on the birth narratives of Matthew: O Come O Come ImmanuelTo view our full liturgy click here. Here are the songs we'll be singing together:

1. COME THOU LONG EXPECTED JESUS

Style: We will be playing the traditional version of this hymn. It will be mid to up-tempo.

Song info: The first two stanzas of this hymn are attributed to Charles Wesley in 1744 but the final two were not penned until 1978 by Mark E. Hunt. This is one of the rare advent hymns that focuses on the theme of anticipation. In the song, Jesus has not yet come but the people of God are eagerly expecting him. We can sing this song today remembering his first advent and also longing for him to come again.

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2. LIFT UP YOUR HEADS, YE MIGHTY GATES

Style: We will be playing the traditional version of this hymn. It will be a slow tempo.

Song Info: This classic hymn was originally part of George Frideric Handel's Messiah in 1741. It has come to be considered a Christmas song about Christ's advent but it's actually about Christ's ascension into heaven after the resurrection. It comes from Psalm 24 - the Psalm of ascension. In that Psalm, the king of glory is coming to his glorious throne in Jerusalem. The gates of Jerusalem are to lift up for him to enter. This song connects that Psalm to Jesus Christ entering the heavenly throne room and sitting next to God the Father after his victory of the cross had been won. It also connects the ascension to the filling of the Holy Spirit that happens to every believer. Christ is seated in heaven with the Father but also seated in our hearts and lives by the Holy Spirit.

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3. COMFORT, COMFORT O MY PEOPLE

Style: This is a song from the renaissance that is festive, a mid madrigal, and lacking in a time signature. Yet it is easy to sing with a very catchy melody.

Song Info: The lyrics to this song are lifted almost word-for-word from Isaiah 40:1-8 which was a prophesy concerning the future restoration of Jerusalem. Most famous from this section are these lines:

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

These lines were first adapted in the seventeenth century by Johann G. Olearius then translated into english by Catherine Winkworth in the nineteenth century. The tune comes from Claude Goudimel from the sixteenth century who was responsible for arranging many of the Psalms found in the Genevan Psalter - the production of which was overseen by John Calvin.

This song takes up the anthem of Isaiah 40 in proclaiming peace to the people of God who have long suffered in exile. The anthem is for us today:

Comfort comfort O my people; Speak of peace now says our God

Comfort those who sit in darkness; Mourning 'neath their sorrow's load

Speak unto Jerusalem; Of the peace that waits for them

Tell her of the sins I cover; And that warfare now is over.

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4. Who is This?

Style: This is a modern version of an old hymn. It is in a minor key with a dark, folk-rock feel.

Song Info: This particular version was arranged by Chris Miner and Joel Littlepage of Indelible Grace in 1997. The lyrics were penned earlier by William Walsham How in the nineteenth century. How was a Catholic Bishop and prolific hymn writer. This particular hymn focuses on the humility of God in Christ - that the Lord of all creation would become a lowly man and suffer humiliation for our salvation. The first stanza is this:

Who is this so weak and helpless,
child of lowly Hebrew maid,
rudely in a stable sheltered,
coldly in a manger laid?
'Tis the Lord of all creation,
who this wondrous path has trod;
he is God from everlasting,
and to everlasting God.

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5. O COME O COME EMMANUEL

Style: We will play this song in its traditional style.

Song info: This hymn was first published in Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum in 1710. The exact authorship of the lyrics and the tune itself are unknown but it has reached its modern form through the help of Johannes Herringsdorf. This is a true Advent hymn as it is anticipated the appearance of Christ rather than celebrating his arrival. It is sung from the perspective of God's people mourning in exile and awaiting the promised Davidic king.

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