We are all excited about the ways that we will be incorporating new and classic music, hand-bells, chimes, and guest musicians into our celebration and anticipation of Advent. Part of this will include musical underscoring during some of the responsive readings and the choir singing during highlights of the service.
Our first Gathering Hymn is "Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn." The author of this text, Marty Haugen (born 1952), develops this Advent theme of God’s new day by recalling that upon the birth of Jesus angels appeared at night to shepherds with “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10). They praised God and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those whom he favors” (Luke 2:14). Strikingly, as Disciples Music Director Louise A. Foster notes, Haugen seems to connect this scene with words the apostle quotes to the Ephesians: “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14). Paul at this point appears to be quoting an early Christian hymn based on Isaiah 60:1: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” All of these scriptures form the basic texture of this hymn text.
During the Children’s Moment, we will be singing the first verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Philadelphia pastor Phillips Brooks was on sabbatical in 1865 and rode on a horse into Bethlehem on Christmas Eve; his reflections on the turmoil in America (the end of the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination) and the Gospel story led him to pen this most beloved of Christmas carols. For our Prayer Song, we will be singing “Lo, How a Rose Er’er Blooming,” a poetic look at the birth of Christ and a harkening back to the ancient prophecy in Isaiah 35:1 that “the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” The Chancel Choir will be blessing us with the contemporary anthem “We Shall Light a Thousand Candles,” and our final congregational hymn is “Christians All, Your Lord is Coming.” As Disciples pastor George Campbell wrote, “This Advent hymn was written for the church and addresses the need of Christians to claim the cause of Christ as he comes to the world to bring peace on earth to people of good faith. The author, the Disciples pastor Jim Miller, wrote this hymn in response to a practical need in his congregation. Thus, it brings practical biblical understanding to the Advent.