Sunday, December 07, 2003

Second Sunday in Advent

Today is overcast and rainy. We're finally getting a sense of the winter darkness of the season here in So Cal. The Advent readings and hymns for today were centered around John the Baptist's call to "Prepare the way of the Lord."

It is also the feast day of St Ambrose, bishop of Milan in the fourth century, who baptized St Augustine. St Ambrose is considered to be the one who introduced hymn singing in the church. So today we sang one of the hymns credited to him, "Savior of the nations, come."

Advent hymns are quite unfamiliar to me. They're sung only four Sundays of the year and in many churches are displaced by Christmas carols. I was struck by this hymn today, "On Jordan's Banks the Baptist's Cry..." sung to Puer Nobis. The language is perhaps a little dated but it captured for me what we long for in the Advent season.
On Jordan's banks the Baptist's cry
Announcing that the Lord is nigh;
Awake and hearken, for he brings
Glad tidings of the King of kings.

Then cleansed be every heart from sin;
Make straight the way for God within,
And let us all our hearts prepare
For Christ to enter there.

We hail you as our Savior, Lord,
Our refuge and our great reward;
Without your grace we waste away
Like flow'rs that wither and decay.

Stretch forth your hand, our health restore,
And make us rise to fall no more;
Oh, let your face upon us shine
And fill the world with love divine.

All praise to you, eternal Son,
Whose advent has our freedom won,
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Spirit, evermore.

Trans. from text by Charles Coffin, 17th-18th cent. Tune adapted by Michael Praetorious, 16th-17th cent. From the Lutheran Book of Worship.

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