Thursday, August 6, 2015

128. Hymn for the 4th Sunday in Advent

The Fourth Sunday in Advent, also known as the last worship service Christmas-and-Easter churchgoers skip before Christmas, is a bit awkward when you're writing a series of hymns for each Sunday of the Church Year - kind of like those Sundays leading up to Pentecost when the Gospel lessons are all subtle variations on the same theme. The problem here is that the Epistle for Advent 4 (Philippians 4:4-7) is mostly a repeat of the Introit for Gaudete (Advent 3), and the Gospel (John 1:19-28) is about John the Baptist again. So the challenge is to avoid being too repetitive. Fortunately there's also the Introit (Isaiah 45:8 and Psalm 19:1) and the Gradual (Psalm 145:18, 21 and Psalm 40:17) to draw upon. The original tune by yours truly is called RORATE.
Drop down, drop down you heavens,
Yea, drop down from on high;
Let righteousness be scattered
As showers from the sky!

Let earth, let earth lie open,
Lie open as a field;
Let it declare God's glory
And our salvation yield!

For there comes One whose sandal
John would not dare untie,
Who bathes us in the Spirit
And flames that purify.

God's Son from heav'n descended,
Took flesh in Mary's womb,
Gave up the ghost to save us
Through fiery trial and tomb.

Washed in His name, yea, buried
In His grave, poor and mean,
We rise with Him united,
Renewed, reborn and clean.

Take cheer therefore in Jesus;
Again I say, take cheer!
Before all men be patient,
Because the Lord is near!

Take cheer, and fret for nothing,
But lean on God in prayer.
He hears your sighs and groaning;
No blessing will He spare.

Now peace that passes knowing
Shall guard your heart and mind,
For in His Son who washed you
A gracious God you find.
Just for historical purposes, the tune that inspired this hymn was O CHRISTE MORGENSTERNE, from a Leipzig hymnal of 1585. I changed my mind about it because my friend Thomas thought the first phrase or two should have a descending melodic shape to tone-paint the text. In dispensing with the tune below, I realized two things. The first was that there was no reason to repeat the last line of each stanza as when I originally wrote it. The other was that I knew of no tune in the meter that had a descending first phrase, so I would have to write one for the purpose. And so it goes.

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