4 thoughts on “Hymn Text for Second Sunday of Advent (Year A)

  1. I like this text. It captures the readings well. I like the repetition of judgment and justice in verses 1 and 4, prepare in verses 3 and 5. When you repeat the word “dare” in verse 3, it’s with a different emphasis, and I like how that works in speaking the text.

    While I like the parallel of “stars and moon” and “lands and peoples” in verse 2, I thought line 3 to be weak in comparison. Stars and moon fall from the sky: that’s a powerful image. Lands and people just … know. Would there be something stronger to say about just what the message of the forerunner is? Also, the semi-colon there implies a connected, but a new thought. “And” doesn’t/shouldn’t follow a semi. It almost seems that you need two verses to really embellish the idea and do two principles: the end of the world and universal salvation their due justice.

    In verse four, your reference to “His” is clearly God because it’s capitalized. I’m not really bothered by a judicious use of the third-person masculine pronoun, but given the wealth of metaphors in Isaiah 11, I would have preferred something other than pronouns in that verse.

    While I like the rhythm and crescendo of verse 5, and the parallel of heart and eyes is good, but in line 1 are we preparing “then well”? It seems like a filler that could easily have been two syllables with a stronger expression.

    I’d say this hymn is much farther along than David’s. And I wouldn’t hesitate, as a composer, to work with you and your material.

  2. Thanks for your comments. If we were two weeks ahead of Advent 2 instead of two weeks after it, I might tinker a bit more.

    It’s always difficult to try to respond line by line to critique, without falling into straight defensiveness. But, in the interest of conversation (which I love) and text-writing scholarship (which I pretend to be involved with), here my initial thoughts:

    Lands and people just … know.

    This is as direct a quotation as the meter would allow of, “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD,” from the Isaiah passage. So, yes- they “just know.”

    Also, the semi-colon there implies a connected, but a new thought. “And” doesn’t/shouldn’t follow a semi.

    I consider punctuation rules to be largely a matter of opinion. I’m aware that a semi-colon+and would get me in trouble with my HS English teacher. On the other hand, the construction does exactly as you suggest- provides separation and linkage at the same time. Also, as long as it doesn’t become a noticeable bad habit at the start of verse after verse, I’m pretty much okay with the occasional lyrical-filler-word (“and”) used in order to get the meter to work. That is much preferable to stuffing in ungainly polysyllables, or forcing a slur to shoehorn a poorly-metered text.

    It almost seems that you need two verses to really embellish the idea and do two principles: the end of the world and universal salvation their due justice.

    This is a theological point which I may or may not understand correctly, but I pretty much consider the end of the world and universal salvation (that’s the salvation of the Universe, not the salvation of all human souls) to be equivalent- they are (like justice and mercy, like judgement and forgiveness, like wrath and loving-kindness) the same side of the same coin.
    Also, I feel like adding an additional verse would violate some kind of personal rule about brevity and compactness. Generically, I feel 5 verses of Long Meter is just about the perfect length of a hymn. Upon adding a sixth, the typical music director will start eyeing verses for ommission.

    In verse four, your reference to “His” is clearly God because it’s capitalized. I’m not really bothered by a judicious use of the third-person masculine pronoun, but given the wealth of metaphors in Isaiah 11, I would have preferred something other than pronouns in that verse.

    I’m a feminist. I write feminist-language hymns. Because of my willingness (eagerness) to use the word “She” to refer to the Almighty and Everlasting God, I am constantly flummoxed and annoyed by progressive-types who point out use of the word “He” in prayer texts. A casual reading of the Bible reveals that God is probably male(ish). A more indepth reading may reveal that God is both male and female. There is absolutely no reasonable interpretation that renders God neuter.
    I know, I know- you’re not “really bothered by a judicious use” of “He,” but you mentioned it, so it seems that perhaps you’re at least a little bothered. I’m sure the PC types at the big publishers would prefer a less gender specific rendering here as well. No thanks.
    As to finding another image from the wealth of metaphors in Isaiah- I’m open to the idea, but I can’t find or invent one that seems as smack-you-in-the-face powerful as “His Judgement… His justice.”

    but in line 1 are we preparing “then well”? It seems like a filler that could easily have been two syllables with a stronger expression.

    I disagree that this is filler. I do metrical filler from time to time (like “and” above), but this is not it.
    “Then” is sort of the crux of the whole piece, in my opinion. It is a rendering of that all-important liturgical word, “igitur” (therefore).
    It works like this:
    Verses 1-4 are basically a paraphrase of the readings- recounting what has been foretold and what will happen. Okay, but so what? Well, THEREFORE, here’s what you need to do: Prepare.
    Prepare how?
    Well.

    It’s understatement, of course- like my grandfather responding to the question, “How did you do that?” “Very carefully,” he would always say.
    I’m relying on the rest of the hearer’s cultural and religious knowledge to understand just how serious and difficult (nay, impossible) it is to prepare “well” for the coming of Christ.
    And how else are we to prepare? Swiftly.
    Why?
    Because God’s grace is swift- coming on an unknown day, at an unknown hour- like a thief. Swifter still, even.

    I’d say this hymn is much farther along than David’s. And I wouldn’t hesitate, as a composer, to work with you and your material.

    Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. I know the CMAA people cringe and giggle everytime I mention it, but David’s music has been a big part of my spiritual upbringing, and it means a lot to me to have my work compared to his in that way.
    As for working with me and my material- this text, as most of the material I write, is released under a Creative Commons license. If you ever feel inspired to write a new tune or arrangement, or even a new derivative text, please feel free to do so. If you want to make money on it, please ask first (I’ll probably say yes) and share (I need it), but otherwise have at it.
    (Please see the specifics of the license- there are requirements and conditions.)

  3. Thanks, Adam. I have no doubt you’ve carefully hashed out this text. I remember reading a Genevieve Glen article where she described her own process for writing texts. I thought, “I don’t know if I want to be bothered with all that!”

    As for the eschaton/universal salvation point… Yes, I agree that five verses is about right. At some point, you want to tell a “story” in twenty lines and be done with it.

    On the other, I just find each aspect so rich that it seems to do an injustice to skip over them each with just a half-verse each.

    But in sum, I appreciate your points of explanation almost as much as the text itself.

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