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Music Notes from Denise, December 9, 2023

Advent Lessons & Carols ~ Sunday, December 17

Please come to hear the Readings and to sing & experience beautiful music!


Lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem herald of good tidings...”Here is your God!” Isaiah 40


This Sunday we read from the very beginning of Mark’s gospel Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.. Our Processional hymn will be Savior of the nations, come which is attributed to St. Ambrose who was Bishop of Milan in 374. He was one of the great Latin church fathers and was remembered best for his preaching, his struggle against the Arian heresy, and his introduction of metrical and antiphonal singing into the Western church. His most famous convert was St. Augustine.


Our Sequence hymn is one we sing every year for the second Sunday of Advent, Prepare the way, O Zion, written by Frans Michael Franzen in 1812. He used a Swedish folk hymn from 1697 for the melody. Franzen was from Finland and later became a minister in Stockholm, Sweden. His text and tune give the words from our Isaiah 40 reading new life!


St. Martin’s choir will sing a beautiful anthem, Who but the Lord? composed by Craig Courtney. It opens with the chant that is reminiscent of stanza 6 of O come, O come, Emmanuel: O come, Thou bright and morning star and bring us comfort from afar. Dispel the shadows of the night and turn our darkness into light. It sets the stage for a contemplative consideration that references Isaiah 58:8 (Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.) Courtney gets the text from Susan Bentall Boersma: Who but the Lord can give the shadows light, can break into the dark, draw morning from the night? Who but the Lord will hear our cry and answer, “Here am I’? Who but the Lord makes blinded eyes to see, brings music to the deaf, sets the lonely captive free? Who but the Lord will by His glory show the paths of peace? O shine on us the brightness of Your face, to earth’s remotest end, every people, every race. O shine on us until to each is shown Your saving grace. (2017 Beckenhorst Press, Inc.)


Our Communion hymn is another favorite for Advent 2: Comfort, comfort ye my people. It is a paraphrase of our Isaiah 40:1-5 reading, in which the prophet looks forward to the coming of Christ. More specifically, the coming of the forerunner of Christ—John the Baptist—is foretold, Though Isaiah’s voice crying in the desert is anonymous, the third stanza ties this prophecy and one from Malachi to a New testament fulfillment, For Elijah’s voice is crying in the desert far and near brings to mind Jesus’ statement, “But I tell you that Elijah has already come,…Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.” The original German text was written by Johannes Olearius in 1671 for St. John the Baptist’s Day, June 24. The tune has been used often and was likely composed by Louis Bourgeois. J.S. Bach used it in seven of his cantatas. (


The final hymn will be Blessed be the God of Israel which is the Song of Zechariah. In Luke 1, Zechariah had lost his voice during his wife Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist. When he hears of his son’s birth, his tongue is loosed for his song of praise to the Lord God of Israel. “The last line of the hymn--with songs that never cease!--would seem to be a hyperbole at first glance, but the text is a literal understanding of eschatology. Our songs will never cease in heaven.” ( It was written by Michael Perry who initially studied mathematics and physics at Dulwich College in England and was headed for a career in the sciences. However, after one year of study in physics he transferred to Oak Hill College to study theology. Perry was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1966 and was eventually vicar of Tonbridge in Kent, where he remained until his death from a brain tumor in 1996. He wrote more than 200 hymns. (

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