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Welcome to MarbleTalks, a Blog for our ministers and staff members to share their thoughts, questions, and experiences with you, our faith community. We hope the writing inspires you on your spiritual journey and encourages you to take action in your life and the world around you.
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Thursday, December 08, 2011
What’s for Worship December 11th
By webmaster @ 2:43 PM :: 1378 Views :: 0 Comments :: Kenneth Dake
 

Several audio samples of this week’s music are included for you to enjoy as you read.

Sacred Traditions

As we travel further down the Advent road, this week’s music will focus on the themes of Preparation and Peace.  Be sure to arrive in the sanctuary by 10:45 for a special Prelude of Arias from Handel’s Messiah sung by Sanctuary Choir soloists: tenor Isai Jess Muñoz will embrace us with Comfort Ye and Every Valley, alto Emily Eyre will proclaim the coming King with O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion, and soprano Justine Aronson will sparkle joyfully with Rejoice Greatly O Daughter of Zion.  Handel’s Messiah is as much a part of the world’s preparation for Christmas as any other holiday tradition.  When I hear that opening simple three-note descending motive on the text, “Comfort ye”, which constitute the first words sung in the entire Messiah, for me it means Advent has arrived, and that Hope is on His way.

Another holiday tradition is the myriad of carols buzzing around the city in celestial cacophony.  One that is often overlooked by the deli and diner sound loops is the elegant French renaissance carol, Un Flambeau, Jeannette Isabelle (Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella).  This 16th century carol hails from Provence, where on Christmas Eve children still dress up as shepherds and process through the streets with candles, singing it on their way to midnight mass.  Although the third verse of the text implores everyone in the manger to pipe down so the baby Jesus can get some needed rest, this week’s postlude on Bring A Torch arranged by Keith Chapman (1945-1989) will in fact do just the opposite, creating quite the sonic ruckus.  [LISTEN]  Chapman was the organist of the famous Wannamaker’s Store (now Macy’s) organ in Philadelphia for twenty-three years. Tragically, he and his wife were killed when their twin-engine plane crashed in the Colorado Rockies.  As an organist he left behind a legacy of exciting recordings and compositions which are performed widely, such as this holiday favorite.

Will You Recognize Him?

Introit: Thou Shalt Know Him by Mark Sirett  How would you rate yourself on Messiah recognition?  Any better than those people 2000 years ago?  The anonymous text of this beautiful little anthem speaks to the various ways by which we should not expect to recognize Christ: not by any “din of drums,” his manners, anything he wears, by his gown or crown, etc.  Rather we will know him by the “holy harmony” he makes in us.  [LISTEN]  Listen for the sublime harmonic shift Mark Sirett employs on the phrase “holy harmony.”  And what exactly is this harmony by which we will know the coming of Christ?  Perhaps it is a peace we receive that is beyond understanding, or a belief we feel that is beyond reasoning, or an unconditional love we experience that is beyond our knowing. 

This all reminds me of one of the readings from last Sunday’s Advent concert.  In her poem, It Is Not Over, Ann Weems writes:

When we begin to think that we can predict the Advent of God,
That we can box the Christ in a stable in Bethlehem,
That’s just the time that God will be born
In a place we can’t imagine and won’t believe.
Those who wait for God watch with their hearts, not their eyes.

Let us therefore be in watchful waiting for the Advent of Christ in our life; let us watch with open hearts so as to recognize the new ways God wants to be born in us.

Hymn: O Come, O Come Emmanuel (Veni Emmanuel)  This ancient hymn grew out of the Catholic liturgy and is now sung worldwide by churches of all denominations.  It’s 8th-century text is based on the so-called “O-antiphons”, a series of antiphons that were sung at the vespers services on the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve.  These seven O-antiphons begin with these Latin words: O Sapientia (wisdom), O Adonai (God), O radix Jesse (Root of Jesse), O clavis David (key of David), O Oriens (morning star), O Rex gentium (King of the nations), and O Emmanuel (God with us).  The highlighted first letters form an acrostic, which read in reverse spells, ERO CRAS, meaning, “I shall be present tomorrow.”  Thus the full text of the acrostic was revealed the day before Christmas Eve with the singing of the final vespers antiphon.

The verses found in our hymnal are not a direct translation of the original Latin, but they do correspond loosely to those all-important first words.  On Advent Sunday we sang three verses, and this week we will sing the concluding four, starting with the one about the Rod of Jesse.  This hails from Isaiah 11:1, which is also our scripture lesson this week: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of His roots.”  This passage is known as The Peaceable Kingdom, and it recalls the glorious Peaceable Kingdom stained glass window that glows with hope over Marble’s south balcony.  Appropriately enough, this window, a gift of the Wei, Wetchler and Chung families, was dedicated one month after the September 11th attacks.  It depicts a great tree of life on which are inscribed the names of every country in the world at that time.  It is with those nations in mind – the powerless as well as the mighty – that we will pray the final two lines of our opening hymn: “Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, and be Thyself our King of Peace.”

Prince of Peace

Anthem: How Lovely are the Messengers from St. Paul by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)  Tying in with Dr. Brown’s sermon theme this week, the Sanctuary Choir will sing a flowing lyrical movement from Mendelssohn’s oratorio, St. Paul [LISTEN]  (This brief excerpt features the Westminster Choir under the direction of Joseph Flummerfelt.)  Mendelssohn composed St. Paul in 1834-1836, and it was premiered in Düsseldorf in May of 1836.  Though performed frequently in Mendelssohn’s lifetime, it has since been eclipsed by the popularity of Elijah, and is now rarely heard in its entirety.  Selected movements, such as this one are frequently excerpted and sung by many choirs.  The text comes from Romans 10:15, 18, in which Paul quotes Isaiah as he preaches a sermon about salvation being available to all who will believe, not merely to the Jews.  Mendelssohn’s music is tranquil and flowing, and he draws out the phrase “to all nations” with a sustained melody heard alternately in various sections of the choir.

Hymn: Wonderful Counselor by John Michael Talbot  John Michael Talbot was touring with the 70’s rock band Mason Proffit, opening concerts for such legends as Janice Joplin, when he had an epiphany.  Standing on an empty stage one night after a concert, he gazed out on a sea of empty alcohol bottles, beer cans and drug paraphernalia; it was then he grasped the emptiness of the rock star life.  He embarked on a spiritual quest which would eventually lead him to Christ and to the Roman Catholic Church.  In 1978 he sold all his possessions and joined a Franciscan Order, and in 1982 he founded his own Franciscan community in Eureka Springs, AK called The Little Portion Hermitage.  It has canonical status in the Catholic Church, and its 40 members, who call themselves Brothers and Sisters of Charity, include celibates, singles, married couples and families.  Talbot’s concert tours and millions of albums sold worldwide go to support the community. 

As exampled by his composition Wonderful Counselor, his music cannot be labeled classical, folk, gospel, or contemporary Christian, although it contains elements of each.  In Talbot’s words it is merely sacred: “Music, based on faith, can take the listener on a closer walk with God, actually taking them into the heart of the Lord.  It brings out the mysterious and speaks the unspeakable, bringing to light that which is beyond human reason.”  Soprano soloist Marie Mascari will lead us in this, our closing hymn, and she will sing the verses which speak so powerfully to our theme of peace.  [LISTEN]  As we sing this music on Sunday may we all be opened to a new Advent of Christ, a fresh welcoming of Emmanuel into our heart and daily life:

So let us beat all our swords into plowshares
And let the wolf come be the guest of the lamb.
So let the song of the world’s nations be peaceful,
Worship the child into the world in Bethlehem.
Sing hallelujah to the Wonderful Counselor,
Sing hallelujah to the Mighty God,
Sing hallelujah to the Father forever
And sing hallelujah to the true Prince of Peace.

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