O ComeEmmanuel:A MusicalTour of DailyReadings forAdvent andChristmas byGordon Giles.ParacletePress, 2006.
This daily devotional for Advent andChristmas by Gordon Giles, vicar ofst. Mary Magdalene’s Church, Enfield,North London, presents one entry foreach day from December 1 throughJanuary 6. Each daily entry includesthe text of a hymn or carol, the authoror source of the text, and a tune nameoften associated with it. The hymns,songs, and carols range from thefamiliar (“What Child Is This?”) tothe more obscure (“Christus vincit”);and from the old (11th century) tothe recent (Taizé). This alone wouldmake it an interesting resource for amusic director or worship leader lookingfor fresh congregational song ideasfor Advent and Christmas. But there’smore.
Each daily reading, based on thesong text, is also thoughtfully tiedto both a passage of scripture and apastoral theme reflecting a variety ofsources from Genesis to Revelation.Historical information about textsand tunes illuminates the meaning ofeach song, and the author approacheseach with thorough scholarship andcareful theology.
The book is a wonderful piece ofintegration: music and text, scholarshipand devotion, pastoral resourcesboth for individual study/prayer and forenriching congregational worship (andeven small group study, to which fivepages of the appendix are devoted).
A pair of quotes from the introductionilluminate the author’s intentionand provide a taste of his artful use oflanguage: “Carols can teach and showus a great deal about our faith andcan help us in our pilgrimage throughlife, reminding, cajoling, and inspiringus to take the incarnation of Jesusseriously and to live our lives in themarvelous light of the love that Godshows us by sending Jesus to us assavior.” “Day by day, using Adventand Christmas music, we will strive tomagnify the wonders of God revealedin Jesus Christ, who is judge, redeemer,promised savior, suffering servant,anointed one, king of glory, child ofBethlehem, son of Man, Word madeflesh, light of the world, lamb of God,incarnate son of God.”
I used this book in personal devotionsthroughout Advent and Christmas2006, and found it a rich source ofspiritual nourishment and fascinatinghistorical details (Did you knowthat before George Whitfield alteredit, Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The HeraldAngels sing” originally concluded with“Glory to the King of kings”—not “to thenewborn king”?). Curious about theauthor’s sources for such abundanthistorical detail, I corresponded withhim by e-mail and learned that O ComeEmmanuel is actually a condensation forthe American market of a heftier Britishpublication. The author suggests thosewho want deeper scholarship shouldread the British edition of the work(Oxford, 2005). With that disclaimer,I emphasize that O Come Emmanualstands alone as a wonderful little gem.I highly recommend it.
—Judy Congdon (Judy.Congdon@houghton.edu) is professor of organ and college organistat Houghton College, Houghton, New York, aswell as organist/choirmaster at St. Stephen’sEpiscopal Church in Olean, New York.
Lift YourHearts on High:EucharisticPrayer in theReformedTradition byRonald P. Byars.WestminsterJohn Knox, 2005.
In the mid-secondcentury, Justin Martyr addressed anapology to the Roman emperor andsenate, along with other individuals,explaining the practices of Christiansand refuting certain charges againstthem. Late in the document he givesthis description of their weekly worship,including these words about theEucharist:
. . . bread and wine and water arebrought, and the president inlike manner offers prayers andthanksgivings, according to hisability, and the people assent, sayingAmen; and there is a distributionto each, and a participationof that over which thanks havebeen given, and to those who areabsent a portion is sent by thedeacons (First Apology, 67).
At the beginning of the history of communionor eucharistic prayers, therewere apparently no widely acceptedset prayers for this part of the service.The one presiding did his best, accordingto his ability.
The question for twenty-first centuryReformed and Presbyterian pastorswho rarely use set communion prayersis “How do you do that?” What prayerwould be adequate to the occasion andwould lead the congregation properly?
Lift Your Hearts on High providesa wealth of help. Byars situates Jesus’prayer at the Last supper in the context of Jewish ceremonial meal prayers.Jesus gave thanks (eucharistesas—Luke)and blessed (eulogesas—Matthew andMark) the bread. Both actions weretypical of Jewish meal rituals. Thestanding benedictions/prayers of thesynagogue may also have influencedJesus’ prayer, as well as influencingother New Testament prayers, notablyPaul’s in Ephesians 1.
Byars also notes early Christianreworkings of the Jewish patterns inthe Didache and in Justin, and in variouslocations, east and west, aroundthe Mediterranean. By the fourth century,patterns of eucharistic prayerwere beginning to be set.
After a survey of the Roman traditionand medieval eucharistic prayers, Byarsturns to the Reformers of the sixteenthcentury, particularly John Calvin. Heshows how the influences from the NewTestament and the practice of the earlychurch shaped Calvin’s prayers andhis eucharistic theology. Subsequenteucharistic prayer—the WestminsterAssembly’s approach and finally theliturgical convergence of the twentiethcentury—round out his treatment.
This suggestive study contains muchthat will help twenty-first centuryPresbyterian or Reformed pastors andtheir Evangelical cousins lead their congregationsin prayer at the table of theLord with enhanced ability.
—Larry Sibley (email@example.com) is a lecturer inpractical theology at Westminster Seminary,Philadelphia, and guest professor at BalticReformed Theological Seminary, Riga, Latvia.