Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve Eve Concert

I'm supposed to be showcasing my writing on this blog, but since we're about to embark on the first of our Christian calendar's two holy-days, I wanted do something unique that celebrates the faith uniting us.

And I thought, why not create an online concert for you dear readers, who faithfully trudge through my essays with me day in and day out?  I could share with you some of my favorite Christmas music, and the stuff you may not like you can just skip, proceeding to the next entry in this order of worship.  Don't worry - this music isn't all from old, dead composers.  Two of the pieces are quite new, putting a delicious twist on the assumption that "contemporary" needs to be flaky.

Just be forewarned: you might find yourself enjoying some truly great musical masterpieces!

Indeed, I invite you to consider this a worshipful experience.  Consider taking out about an hour of your day sometime this weekend to work your way through this playlist in a contemplative, yet celebratory fashion.

So, without any further ado, let us proceed with our virtual concert.  Just click the link on each music title.  Please be sure all other communication devices are either turned to "mute" or "off," and allow me to also remind you that any recording or photography during this concert is not permitted.

(That was a joke!)

And now, would you please join me as we invite the Lord's blessing on this time:

"Oh great God, Whose incarnation we commemorate this season, help your people to worship you in spirit and truth, not just as we join in these praises to you, but as we continue throughout this weekend of celebration for your many good gifts to us, not the least of which is our very reason to be joyful, even your dear Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in Whose name we pray.  Amen."

Opening Fanfare
J. S. Bach, "For the First Day of Christmas (Part 1)" from the Christmas Oratorio

"Of the Father's Love Begotten" Divinum Mysterium by Aurelius C. Prudentius, 413 A.D., translated by John. M. Neale and Henry W. Baker

1. Of the Father's love begotten, Ere the worlds began to be, He is Alpha and Omega, He the Source, the Ending He, Of the things that are, that have been, And that future years shall see Evermore and evermore.

2. Oh, that birth forever blessed, When the Virgin, full of grace, By the Holy Ghost conceiving, Bare the Savior of our race, And the Babe, the world's Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face Evermore and evermore.

3. O ye heights of heaven, adore Him; Angel hosts, His praises sing; Powers, dominions, bow before Him, And extol our God and King. Let no tongue on earth be silent, Every voice in concert ring Evermore and evermore.

4. (Not sung on this recording, unfortunately) This is He whom Heaven-taught singers Sang of old with one accord; Whom the Scriptures of the prophets Promised in their faithful word. Now He shines, the Long-expected; Let creation praise its Lord Evermore and evermore.

5. Christ, to Thee, with God the Father, And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee: Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving And unwearied praises be, Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory Evermore and evermore!

"Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence"

"Once in Royal David's City"

The Narrative
"From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable" by Stuart Townend

Despite its sub-par audio quality and quaint aesthetics, I chose this video because the girls who are singing come from an African orphanage, helping to represent the global breadth of God's salvific plans through the incarnation of His Son.

The Invitation
"O Come, All Ye Faithful"

An Affirmation
Hector Berlioz, "The Shepherd's Farewell" from L'enfance du Christ

Thou must leave thy lowly dwelling, The humble crib, the stable bare. Babe, all mortal babes excelling, Content our earthly lot to share. Loving father, Loving mother, Shelter thee with tender care!

Blessed Jesus, we implore thee With humble love and holy fear. In the land that lies before thee, Forget not us who linger here! May the shepherd's lowly calling, Ever to thy heart be dear!

Blest are ye beyond all measure, Thou happy father, mother mild! Guard ye well your heav'nly treasure, The Prince of Peace, The Holy Child! God go with you, God protect you, Guide you safely through the wild!

"O Magnum Mysterium" from the ancient Matins for Christmas; this version composed in 1994 by Morten Lauridsen of Los Angeles, California

Latin text:  O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, jacentem in praesepio!  Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum. Alleluia.

English translation:  O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in a manger!  Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear Christ the Lord. Alleluia!

The abrupt ending of this video cuts out the concluding prayer, so I took the liberty of crafting the last sentence:

"Eternal God, Who made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of Thy one true Light, bring us who have known the revelation of that Light on Earth to see the radiance of Thy heavenly glory through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen.

"Christ, Who by His incarnation gathered into one things earthly and heavenly fill you with peace and goodwill, and make you partakers in the joy of His love; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen."

J. S. Bach, "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" and "Et in Terra Pax" from the Mass in B Minor

Yes, we have South Koreans singing in Latin!  The Gospel isn't just for English speakers, is it?  I hope I don't need to translate, but just in case, "gloria in excelsis Deo" means "Glory to God in the highest," and "et in terra pax" means "and peace on earth."

G. F. Handel, "Hallelujah Chorus" from Messiah

(And yes, tradition dictates that you now rise to stand in honor of the King of Kings - even if you're in your living room at home.)

I've chosen our new friends in South Korea to lead us in Handel's penultimate worship song - literally with tears in my eyes - as I rejoice with saints around our world who are celebrating the birth of our Savior this weekend along with us!  They sing the famous text from the Hallelujah Chorus in their native language, yet we don't need a translator to join along with them in joyous proclamation that He whose incarnation we commemorate will truly reign forever and ever!


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