A Song, a Carol and an Anthem: All earth is waiting; People look east; This is the record of John
When I was a child and had a traditional advent calendar – you know, that fun kind that gives you a small sweet each day – I remember the exhilaration I would feel to discovered that I had forgotten to open yesterday’s door, and that I consequently had two pieces of chocolate to eat in a single day!
I hope you will have a similar feeling today – in the busyness of finalizing plans for Christmas, I have not had the chance to finalize the videos for Sunday or Monday yet, and as a result, I’m sharing three pieces with you today for your appreciation.
All earth is waiting
The first of these is a contemporary Advent song from Catalonia, a region in the north of Spain and the south of France, called “All earth is waiting”, found at page 210 in the UMC Hymnal. Originally written in Spanish and called “Toda la tierra [espera al Señor]”, the text and tune were composed by a Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Alberto Taulé (1932-2007). The simple-but-charming melody and words evoke the character of a children’s hymn and hearken to passages of scripture, including the 40th Chapter of Isaiah (which, if you have not yet realized, is a very important component of the prophesies foretelling the coming of Jesus), but ultimately reminds us that even as we await the coming of the Christ, we “feel his presence throughout the earth today, for he lives in all Christians and is with us now.” (v.4)
People look east
The carol, played here by a recorder consort comprised of my fiancee, my future in-laws, and myself, is an old French carol – the Beçanson Carol – familiarly found with the text “People, look east” (UMH#202) penned by Elizabeth Farjeon. A poem of exuberant expectation, it exhorts us to make our preparations for the coming Christ, who is characterized in the various stanzas as “Love, the guest”, coming to visit our hearts, “Love, the rose” entreating our tender care and cultivation, “Love, the star” lighting our way as bright as ‘sun and moon together’, and “Love, the Lord” bringing ‘new life to earth’.
Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim One more light the bowl shall brim, Shining beyond the frosty weather, Bright as sun and moon together. People, look east and sing today: Love, the star, is on the way. (v.4)
This is the record of John
Finally, the anthem is a piece of music composed by English composer Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625), sung by the MLUMC Compline Singers. This lovely Tudor setting of these words from scripture was recorded in Sanner Chapel, using the pedal harpsichord voice of the chapel organ, with Kirby Dilworth singing the tenor solos.
Directly taken from the first chapter of the Gospel of John, which we encountered in the Lectionary readings appointed for this past Sunday, the music tells the story of John the Baptist in the wilderness encountering the religious authorities that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had sent to question him. The “priests and Levites” asked John if he considered himself to be the prophet, or Elijah, or even Christ, the Messiah. Knowing the call that he had received even before his birth to prepare the way for Jesus, John makes no pretense and responds to them that he is the “voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: ‘make straight the way of the Lord’.”
I hope these three contrasting selections bring to mind the mystic timelessness of Jesus’ advent: that although Christ has already come to Earth in a place long ago and far away, we are still awaiting his coming, and yet moreover, he is still alive and with us even here and even now.
Angels, announce with shouts of mirth Christ who brings new life to earth. Set every peak and valley humming With the word, the Lord is coming. People, look east and sing today: Love, the Lord, is on the way. (“People, look east!”, verse 5)
Mitchell Stecker, Director of Music