We are entering Advent this Sunday, which may be the most beautiful and beloved season of the church year. This is especially true if we include the Christmas Eve service, but each Sunday in Advent is full of music and rituals and readings designed to fill us with the Advent blessings of hope, peace, joy and love.
Advent is a season to savor, and this First Sunday of Advent will offer many opportunities to feel moved. Early in the service the children will bring in greens to decorate the Advent candle table. The children and adult choir will sing Light One Candle as the Anthem, and then they will light the candle of Hope together.
We will read responsively familiar words from the book of Baruch, “God has ordered that every high mountain be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.” We will also hear familiar Advent words in Malachi 3:1-4 (“For he is like a refiner’s fire,” a phrase sung in Handel’s Messiah) and Luke 3:7-18 (where John the Baptist says, “One who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”). The sermon will consider how the things in which we place our hope refine us and define us as we wait for their fulfillment. Hope for the light IS light!
We will sing three classic Advent hymns, starting with O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ending with Watchman, Tell Us of the Night. The middle hymn will be Wake, Awake for Night Is Flying. If you have not yet listened to the Bach Cantata based on that hymn, it will greatly enhance your appreciation of the hymn to listen before Sunday. You can find two youtube versions by clicking here. The Benediction will be sung, with contemporary words set to the oldest Advent tune dating back well over a thousand years.
The choir will sing the Pilgrim Hymnal hymn All Glory Be to God on High as the Introit. John will play two baroque era organ pieces based on that hymn tune as Prelude and Offertory. (See the youtube piece below for a sneak preview of the J. S. Bach version.) The Postlude will be French Noel by J.F. Dandrieu.