Lessons and Hymns for Sunday, December 22, 2013

SCRIPTURE REFLECTIONS: Isaiah predicts a young woman will bear a child and name him Immanuel. Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18 has the recurrent phrase: “Restore us, O God of hosts; show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be whole.” In the Epistle (Romans 1:1-7) Saint Paul opens his letter with a greeting to the Christian community in Rome. In our Gospel, we hear Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus.

THE HYMNS:
PROCESSIONAL HYMN:
No. 267
“Praise we the Lord this Day.” The author of this hymn remains unknown. It was first published in an English hymnbook in 1846. The words gather various scriptural passage related to Mary the mother of Jesus as a song of praise and adoration. The tune, “St. George,” was composed by Henry John Gauntlett (1805-1876), a British lawyer who also served as a church organist. His music won the praise of Felix Mendelssohn in 1844. This icon is an old rendition of “Our Lady of Vladmir.”

THE SEQUENCE HYMN:
No. 497
“How Bright Appears the Morning Star.” The text is based roughly on II Peter 1:19; and Revelation 2:28 and 22:16. The morning star (called “Day-star in the King James’ Bible) is the planet Venus when it appears in the east before sunrise (as though heralding the coming of the morning). The text of the hymn is by William Mercer (1811-1873) from the earlier form attributed to Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608). The melody is also attributed to Nicolai and harmonized later by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

PRESENTATION HYMN:
No. 56
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” This hymn is based on the seven great Antiphons which were said on successive days before and after Vespers between December 17th and the 23rd inclusive (mostly among Eastern Christians). Each of the Antiphons salutes the coming Messiah under one of the many titles ascribed to him in Holy Scripture, and closes with a petition based upon the salutation. The tune is reputed to be from a French missal and the refrain is almost identical with the opening phrases. We will sing verses 5-8 this Sunday. The seven titles in this text are: Emmanuel; Wisdom from on High; Lord of Might; Branch of Jesse: Key of David; Dayspring; and Desire of Nations.

COMMUNION HYMN:
No. 314
“Humbly I Adore Thee.” The words are attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas (13th century) and comes to us as a monastic hymn of personal prayer or meditation. The tune, “Adoro Devote,” is a French church melody in a plainsong form.

RECESSIONAL HYMN:
No. 57
“Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending.” Charles Wesley wrote this hymn which is reminiscent of Daniel 7:13-14, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man.” The tune, “Helmsley” is a melody composed by Thomas Augustine Arne who is most famous for producing the English anthem, “Rule Britannia!”