Advent two is personified by the voice of John the Baptist calling for repentance and readiness. His voice is heard in nearly all of the hymns and especially in “On Jordan’s bank,” “Prepare the way, O Zion,” and “Comfort, comfort ye my people.” When we sing Advent hymns their meaning is shaped by our subjective personal journey toward Christmas. John the Baptist’s original message imploring readiness was to the Jewish people alone. Only later was the promised gift of the Messiah made explicit as a gift of salvation for everyone- Jew and Gentile. As my mother wisely responded to my question from her nine-year-old son- “Mom, are their people on other planets?” She said, “Son, I don’t know but if there are, Jesus went there to save them too.”
Our offertory anthem has a wonderful story. Paul Manz wrote "E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come" in 1953 during a time when his three-year-old son was critically ill. Reflecting on the time, Ruth Manz reported, "I think we'd reached the point where we felt that time was certainly running out so we committed it to the Lord and said, 'Lord Jesus quickly come'". During this time, she had prepared some text for Paul for a composition based on the Book of Revelation. While at his son's bedside, Paul Manz began drafting the composition which later became the current piece. Their son did recover, to which the couple owed to prayer.
Two organ voluntaries that I play today by Craig Phillips also have an interesting story. “Commissioned” by the Pittsburgh Organ Artist Series (OAS) celebration of its 40th anniversary year, this liturgical suite is comprised of five short movements. I play the Kyrie at the Communion and the Gloria as postlude. You may notice “Commission” in quotes and here is the back story. OAS originally ran a composition competition and received hundreds of submissions from across the world. In the end and in their wisdom, OAS judged none of the submissions worthy. At the last moment in order to meet a publication and premiere performance deadline, OAS turned to composer Craig Phillips who composed beautifully the entire organ suite during a trip to Paris this past summer. Craig is music director at All Saints Church, Beverly Hill, CA http://www.
Our next Friends of Music Concert is this Sunday, December 9th, 2018 at 4:00 pm featuring the Mt. Lebanon High School percussion ensemble in a concert of holiday music. Come join us for a most splendid concert! A free will offering will be asked.