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November 29, 2014, 5:00 PM

The pipe organ in Advent

This Sunday (November 30) marks the first Sunday of Advent - a time of preparation in the Christian calendar in anticipation of Christmas. The pipe organ plays a central role in worship at all times of the year as it provides an opportunity for communal involvement in worship - namely through singing - but its role is particularly unique during Advent given the rich tradition of favorite Christmas carols and hymns.

Some congregations elect to remove sung "Alleluias" during Advent (and during Lent), and a few congregations even retire their pipe organ for those periods of preparation. (Insert a 'gasp' here!) At Plainfield United Methodist Church, the organ continues to lead our worship services' music from this first Sunday of Advent through Christmastide and Epiphany.

The United Methodist Hymnal is rich with hymns for the season that you might consider referencing as periodic devotional use over these next four weeks including:

  • #196 "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" which is text by Charles Wesley most often sung to the hymn tune "Hyfrydol."
  • #211 "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" which features text written in the 9th century and 20th century alike, set to the chant-like tune "Veni Emmanuel."
  • #215 "To a Maid Engaged to Joseph" is a refreshing opportunity to sing in a minor key - the key of G Minor
  • #216 "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" is based on German text from the 15th century and set to, again, chant-like music by Michael Praetorius.

Beyond these hymns of preparation - or "promised coming" as they are labeled in the United Methodist Hymnal - we are certain to pepper-in a healthy seasoning of traditional Christmas hymnody as well. Such a rich tradition of congregational singing has the United Methodist Church, that we surely mustn't relegate these favorite Christmas hymns and carols to post-December 24th worship.

We move forward with these next days of Advent prior to Christmas's arrival with hope, love, joy and peace.

Michael Pettry
Director of Music


12-15-2014 at 10:17 AM
Michael Pettry
Great point, Paul. I can sure see both sides of that train of thought. (Really, it's probably more like "many sides," rather than just "A" and "B"....)

I do find that musical period of waiting is so powerful, and especially poignant this time of year. Then again, we do have so many Christmas hymns and carols that it's a struggle to pack them all in post-Advent, isn't it?

No matter, the UMC hymnal is quite the anthology no matter Advent, Christmas, Lent, and the whole year through.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Paul!
12-13-2014 at 1:01 AM
Paul Fulp
Michael, I am SO glad you are not among the "purists", or whatever they are, that will not sing "Christmas Songs" until the Christmastide season, i.e. not until after the 24th. And boy they are out there in our denomination. Thank you again.
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