Musical Advent Calendar – Day 11

Psalm 80  (Tune: BOSTON, Wm. Billings)

Today’s musical reflection is another selection from the Psalter that prophetically pre-figures the coming of the Christ. The 80th Psalm was the psalm appointed for use on the first Sunday in Advent, and the paraphrase Sarah and I are singing here was actually done by John Milton – yes, that John Milton, who those of you with a literary inclination may know for his Paradise Lost notoriety. The music is by William Billings (1746-1800), a prolific composer who lived in Revolutionary-Era New England, and who was one of America’s first native-born composers. The tune we’re singing here was named for his native city of Boston, MA.

The words of the Psalmist here strikingly foretell the coming of the Good Shepherd (vs. 1), conjuring also the imagery of the vine and the branches (vs. 3), as in John 15:5, and concludes with a corporate resolution on behalf of all of God’s faithful to not turn back to our old “ways of sin and shame”, instead resolving to “gladly…call upon [God’s] name” to implore God’s guidance and safe-keeping. 

Return us, and thy Grace divine
Lord God of Hosts, vouchsafe, 
Cause thou thy face on us to shine
and then we shall be safe.

Mitchell Stecker, Director of Music