Advent in Music

This year Advent began in November.  This is because there are always four Sundays in Advent.  If Christmas Day is on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday Advent Sunday is in December.  Otherwise it begins in November, the earliest possible date being 27 November for years when Christmas day is on a Sunday.

(Please correct me if I am wrong, I have worked this out on the back of an envelope!)

For our Church choir the first big service was on the morning of 29 November.  There was an Advent Carol service (five lessons and carols), similar to the world-famous Christmas Nine lessons and carols, but with music and readings chosen for the season of Advent.  We processed in singing, O come, O come Emmanuel.  The carols sung by the choir were People look East, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, Advent Message, and And the glory of the Lord.  The hymns were On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s cry, Hark!What a sound and too divine for hearing, Come thou long expected Jesus and Lo, He comes with clouds descending.

The second and third Sundays in Advent were marked with services of Holy Communion.  At the first of these the choir was very few in number, but still managed to sing And the glory of the Lord by special request of the celebrant and preacher.  The anthem at the second service was Be still for the presence of the Lord.

It is possible that some people attending the service are unaware that the organist and choir have been practising beforehand for at least 45 minutes. During Advent the emphasis is on the carols for our Nine Lessons and Carols which takes place at 4pm on the fourth Sunday in Advent.

For me the weekend before Christmas is exceptionally busy.  An extra choir practice for this special service is always necessary.  The morning service includes a traditional nativity play, which has carols interspersed among the lines recited by young actors.  These are accompanied by an orchestra made up of children and adults.

For many years I have been involved in this, playing a recorder of whatever pitch is needed most.  Attendance at a rehearsal is definitely recommended.

As well as singing in the Church choir, I also belong to another choir, which gives a Christmas concert in the church.  This always includes carols, some with audience participation, but often includes secular music as well.    The choirmaster introduces the songs with lots of background information.  The church organist meanwhile accompanies us on the organ as required.  This year much of our programme was a capella (unaccompanied).  The singing is complemented by entertaining readings from members of the choir.

If the title of this post seemed the wrong way round, perhaps having reached the end of it, you appreciate my reasons for not calling it Music in Advent.  For me Advent is dominated by music and other preparations for Christmas such as writing cards and wrapping presents.

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I pray that you will experience the peace of God at this time.


Resolutions revisited

I made a New Year’s resolution and managed to keep it!  My post on this blog alerted readers to one on my other blog.

Although the year is not over I have achieved my goal (to read more books).  Since I keep a record of the books I have read with dates, it is easy to compare how many I read last year with this year’s total so far.  In 2013 I read 17 books and gave up on The Poisonwood Bible.  Between October 2013 and February 2014 I have not recorded any books I read.  I wonder whether this is a seasonal effect.  It is a struggle to read books at present, although I am reading blogs, magazines and other printed matter.

In 2014, so far I have read 21 books – fiction, cartoons, memoirs, Christian books, secular books and non-fiction.  Some of them are reviewed on my other blog.

I am also part way through 4 others.  The books I am currently reading are not ones to read at a sitting.  One is about writing poetry in the form of examples in verse, many being humorous.  It is How to be Well-versed in Poetry edited by E. O. Parrott (Penguin 1991).  I bought it second-hand five months ago, dipped into it first and then began at the beginning.

I have reached page 191 out of 257+ (I have read the glossary, which starts on page 259).  This book is old enough to have a blank page on page 258, which does not have any words on it.  “This page has intentionally been left blank” is surely a contradiction in terms!

I am also about halfway through Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey.  It is subtitled, Whatever happened to the good news?  This is another fashion.  Books have had titles probably from the time they appeared between covers and probably on scrolls too!  But subtitles?  People are so busy now that they are not expected to read the blurb or reviews (or even the genre in the bookshop, whether analogue or digital).

Of the three books I downloaded to my Kindle app a few weeks ago, I have read two and am struggling with the third.  I approached it with some prejudices, which may be hindering me.  In any case it is intended to be read a chapter a day.  Some days I forget!

My fourth book is the one that the Ladies’ Bible study group is using this term.  It is Let’s Study Philippians by Sinclair B Ferguson.  This is also a book to read slowly – two chapters a week is taking us the whole term.

As I read something from the Bible every day, I have not included that in my list for either year.  I consult the dictionary and reference books too.  We had to throw out a Scrabble reference book as we had worn it out!  Fortunately its replacement is more useful, with meanings as well as lists of words.  It is Collins Scrabble Dictionary.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution?  How did it turn out?  For Christians there is an extra New Year’s Day.  The Church’s year begins on Advent Sunday.  This year it is 29 November.   Perhaps we should be considering whether we need to make any resolutions for the next year.

Related post

Post Script:  The Daily Post has come up with this prompt almost a month after I published this.


The first day of December

Today is World Aids Day.  The Blog Action Day team have asked bloggers to raise awareness of this disease, which still has serious consequences for many people.

Today is also the first day of Advent, the beginning of the Church’s year.  As it is Sunday it is Advent Sunday or the First Sunday in Advent.  Advent means coming.  The arrival being mentioned here is the arrival of Jesus Christ.  As we look forward to Christmas we remember his birth over two thousand years ago.  We also remember that when he returned to heaven God promised that Jesus would return.  In the statement of belief (creed) we say “He will come again to judge the living and the dead”.

In today’s multicultural world, many people enjoy the winter holiday without giving a thought to why we celebrate Christmas.  Today an awareness campaign is being launched.  It is called, Christmas Starts with Christ.  It certainly does, both the word Christmas and the reason for the holiday (or Holy Day) begin with Christ.

Christianity is not a philosophy or a man-made religion; it is a God-given faith.  Christians trust God, through Jesus and are strengthened by the Holy Spirit.

If you are uncertain what Christianity is about, there is a button on my sidebar where you may obtain more information.

If you are a believer, perhaps you would consider supporting Christmas Starts with Christ on social media.