Grace & Peace, Volume 7: Hymn Portraits for the Christmas Cycle
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The refrain composers often hear from music publishers is “Please, nothing more for Christmas!” since they tend to receive an overabundance of submissions in this category. But the idea for an Advent/Christmas collection would not leave me alone. I finally I decided it might be justified by an attempt to bring out facets of these beloved hymns and carols that may often be overlooked or even go unrecognized, as a way of probing the theology of these texts.
For example, in “Silent Night” I thought not only of the contemplative stillness of darkness stirred by gentle rocking motions, but also of all that lay ahead for the Christ child—the terrible trial he would undergo at the beginning of his ministry, the rejection he would endure along the way, and ultimately the unspeakable suffering of the cross.
In a similar way, in place of the typical ebullience of “Angels We Have Heard on High” we perceive the angels’ song wafting down from a great distance (in a remote key) before it fills the sky with joy. “I Wonder as I Wander” is not only contemplative in mood but also raises questions about where we are (tonally) and where we are going. The juxtaposition of “Come Now, O Prince of Peace” of “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers” reminds us of our deep longing for
Christ as well as our heightened anticipation of his arrival. And in “The First Noel,” a shaft of light from the tune WIE SCHÖN LEUCHTET filters down from above to illuminate the Bethlehem stable.
I began this collection in late in 2013 as an offering to my mother, to whom Christmas was so dear. I was partway through when she died unexpectedly shortly before Christmas. Completion of the project with Jesus at my side sustained me through those dark days.