For this Advent/Christmas issue of Reformed Worship, we asked our RW staff this question: “What congregational song related to the story of Christ’s birth do you find particularly meaningful and why?”
from Handel’s Messiah.
Words: Job 19:25–26; 1 Corinthians 15:20; adapt. by Charles Jennens
I know, it’s not a congregational song, and the text has a stronger Easter connection, but it’s a favorite Advent song because of an association. For years we’ve joined good friends in Chicago to hear the Messiah performed by the Apollo Chorus in early December. Regardless of the date on the calendar, it’s the start of Advent for me. It’s also one of only a few tunes that I sing all year for no reason at all. There’s something about that “ascending fourth” (thank you, Wikipedia, for telling me what it’s called) from “I” to “know” in the first line.
—Dean Heetderks, Art Director
Dean Heetderks is a member of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Michigan, and art director of Reformed Worship.
“In the Bleak Midwinter” GtG 144, PH 36
Words: Christina Rossetti, c. 1872, P.D.
I’ve always preferred Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. The stillness, the candlelight or twinkling tree, the warmth of a fire and a cup of hot cocoa—all lend themselves to quiet meditation on the mystery of Christmas. “In the Bleak Midwinter” is a similarly serene picture of the humble night of Christ’s birth. Before the exuberance of the angels and shepherds, before the weight of the years to come, there was just a mother’s ordinary love for an extraordinary baby, and it was enough.
—Karen DeVries, Copy Editor
Karen DeVries is the copy editor of Reformed Worship and is a member of Boston Square Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Words and Music: Isaac Watts, George Frideric Handel, adapted by Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash, and Matt Gilder © sixsteps Music, Vamos Publishing, worshiptogether.com songs, Ryan House Music, Wondrously Made Songs
The word “joy” is one of my favorites, etched in my heart for many years. This “Unspeakable Joy” that the Lord is come fills the sanctuary with familiarity at Christmastime. Voices boom out with joy. It also reminds me of the connection between heaven and us as we sing together with nature (Psalm 96:11–12)—so powerful. And knowing that Christ rules the world with truth and grace comforts me that God is in control. I’m so thankful that our Savior reigns and brings great joy to the world.
—Laura Meyering, Administrative Specialist, Subscriptions
Laura Meyering is the administrative specialist for Reformed Worship and Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church of North America.
“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” LUYH 79, GtG 129, PH 48, PsH 351
Words: German, 15th century; English translation: Theodore Baker, c.1894
This peaceful hymn weaves together beautifully the imagery of the rose from the stem of Jesse in the book of Isaiah (11:1) and a poignant 16th century tune, masterfully harmonized by Michael Praetorius. As we celebrate Christ’s birth (a fulfilment of an old prophecy), the text also points to Christ’s death (our redemption) and his return (our eternal hope).
—Dr. Kai Ton Chau, Associate Editor
Dr. Kai Ton Chau is associate editor of Reformed Worship and resource development specialist at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. He is a member and choir director at Blythefield Christian Reformed Church in Rockford, Michigan.
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” LUYH 61, GtG 88, PfAS 74A, PH 9, PsH 328
Words: Latin Hymn, tr. st., 1, 2, John Mason Neale;
st. 3, 4, Henry Sloane Coffin
Plainsong; adapt. Thomas Helmore
A song full of contrast, from oppression to freedom, from darkness to light, from striving to peace. A song full of hope. A reminder of why we are in desperate need of the Savior.
—Frank Gutbrod, Graphic Designer
Frank Gutbrod is a member of Tabernacle Community Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and graphic designer of Reformed Worship.
“Told of God’s Favor” LUYH 68
Words: Richard Leach, 1992, © 1994 Selah Publishing Company
We rarely think of how much was asked of Mary, a young, unwed teen, when she became the mother of Jesus. But despite all the challenges, Mary said “yes.” In this inspirational text, Leach presents the question: will we say “yes” to whatever God asks of us? This is a text that makes me think deeply.
—Rev. Joyce Borger, Editor
Rev. Joyce Borger, an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, is editor of Reformed Worship and director of Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church.