Lessons and Hymns for this Sunday, January 5, 2014

by the Rev. William P. McLemore

SCRIPTURE REFLECTIONS:   The Old Testament reading is Jeremiah 31:7-14 where the prophet predicts that God will bring the tribes of Israel to the promised land and “my people shall be satisfied with my bounty.”  Psalm 84:1-8 also talks about the journey to the promised land where people will be happy in Zion.  The Epistle, Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a, tells that God “destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ.”   Three readings from the Gospels are suggested for this Sunday.  Two are from Matthew and tell of the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Wise Men.  The other is Luke 2:41-52 where Jesus, 12 years old, gets away from his parents and they find him conversing with the rabbis on the temple steps.

THE HYMNS: 

PROCESSIONAL HYMN: .  No. 102.  “Once in David’s Royal City.”   This hymn was  written by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) and published in her “Hymns for Little Children.”  It is based on the portion of the Apostles’ Creed which tells of Mary being conceived by the Holy Spirit and giving birth to Jesus.  The third verse of this 6 verse hymn was added by Dr. James Waring McCrady (b. 1938) a professor at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.  The tune, “Irby,” was composed by Henry John Gauntlett (1805-1876) as the melody for this hymn.

THE SEQUENCE HYMN:  No. 98.  “Unto Us a Boy is Born.”   This is a 15th century Latin song of Christmas based primarily on the birth narrative in the second chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.   The present English translation is that of Percy Dearmer (1867-1936).   The tune  is named for the opening words of the Latin form of the hymn, “Puer nobis nascitur,” and is an ancient plainsong melody.

PRESENTATION HYMN:   No. 92.  “On This Day Earth Shall Ring.” This is one of many songs which relate to the former Holy Innocents feast day which was December 28th.   This happy 15th or 16th century Latin carol is probably a parody of an earlier medieval song in honor of St Nicholas, the patron saint of Russia, sailors and children – to whom he traditionally brings gifts on his feast day, 6 December.  The tune which accompanied it in the 1582 Finnish “Piae Cantiones” manuscript was possibly that of the earlier song as a very similar melody is found in a 1360 manuscript from Moosburg, Germany. The English translation is by Jane M. Joseph (1894-1929).

COMMUNION HYMN:  No. 124.  “What Star is This?”  This Epiphany hymn by Charles Coffin (1676-1749) appeared in his “Hymnal Sacri” in 1736.  The hymn contains a good amount of biblical imagery like this from Numbers 24:17, “a star shall come out of Jacob.”   The tune “Puer Nobis” is a 15th century melody adapted by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621).

RECESSIONAL HYMN:  No.  117. “Brightest and Best.”   This hymn was written by Reginald Heber (1783-1826), an Anglican priest who became Bishop of Calcutta, India in 1823.   A prolific musician and author of hymns, the church has variously enjoyed a dozen of his hymns, the most popular being, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty (Hymn 362 in the 1982 Hymnal).  “Brightest and Best” was criticized by some hymnal editors for seeming to promote worship of the stars.  The tune, “Morning Star,” was composed by James Proctor Harding (1850-1911), organist and choirmaster of St. Andrew’s Church, Islington, London, for 35 years.