Come Down Home

Advent through Christmas Season 2017 — Series Overview

First Sunday of Advent 2017, Year B

As we light the first candle in our Advent wreath today, officially enacting this annual ritual reminder, and as we move toward the celebration of the birth of the one God sent to save us from the law of sin and death, let us take seriously God’s call on our lives. Let us make our confession of sin, as individuals and as a human community. Let us pray that God will have mercy on us. And let us embrace our need for a Savior.

Coming Home | COME DOWN HOME


Welcome (W&S 3152)

Laurie Zelman and Mark Miller’s hymn, “Welcome,” gives us what Laurence Hull Stookey has referred to as the “intersection of time and eternity” (Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, p. 17) by connecting the past, present, and future with the eternal time of the reign of God. This hymn is rich with imagery of the table being prepared, shared, and extended into the world. If your congregation is unfamiliar with this hymn, consider adopting it as an opening hymn for a month and teaching it over time by asking them to sing the refrain (and taking the time on the first Sunday to teach it to them before worship). Continue singing it in following weeks as you gather for worship--particularly around the table--and have soloists sing the stanzas. Over time, the congregation will associate the hymn with the Eucharist and will be able to sing it as they build their liturgical memory. When accompanying on piano, which in this case is not easy, I recommend not playing the melody because it can easily complicate the singing. Improvise on the chords of the song and allow the voices to carry the melody.

Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble? (CCLI #1097028)

This text embodies the spirit of Isaiah 64:1 and calls for the congregation to sing songs of praise to the risen Christ. The call to “prepare the way of the risen Lord” makes this song ideal for the Advent season, and it ends with a call to “dance upon injustice.” Then the name of God might make “the nations… tremble” (Isaiah 64:2). Accompany with a band, piano, or solo guitar, but if using a piano, do not play the melody with the congregation. Allow the voice to lead, with the instruments supplying rhythm and a harmonic foundation. The range is very wide, so I recommend either Bb or B, depending on the congregation’s ability to begin musical phrases on a high D# or D. The key of A is also possible, but the low end of the range begins to get too low in this key.

Beautiful One (CCLI #3915912)

This song continues the summon to praise and offer prayers of adoration to God, who is “wonderful,” “powerful,” and “beautiful.” Even though the object of “Beautiful One” is never named, it becomes clear that the beauty lies in the saving power of Christ and the expanse of creation. The original key of D works well for this song, but if the chorus is too high for your congregation, it also works in C. The greatest musical and textual consideration is making sure to sing the first two statements of the chorus in one breath: “Beautiful One, I love you, beautiful One, I adore.” The tendency will be to breathe after the word “love,” which divides the text and disrupts musical phrases. Singing this whole phrase is possible, but it requires a good, healthy breath!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (UMH 211)

One of the most well-known, ancient hymns of the church, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is based upon the “O Antiphons” contained on the second page of the hymn in The United Methodist Hymnal. These antiphons were chanted refrains used in worship, one per day, during the last eight days of Advent leading up to Christmas Eve. Like the original antiphons, this hymn sings of the longing and somber nature of the Advent season. We have recommended its use within the liturgy for the lighting of the Advent candles. All are welcome to sing the opening phrase in the liturgy, but it is also possible to have a soloist sing it in a very legato (smooth and connected) manner with a brief pause on the last note of each phrase; all should sing the concluding phrase: “Rejoice! Rejoice!...” Remove the plodding nature of the accompaniment and allow the melody to stand on its own as the stanzas originally did — as a haunting, unaccompanied chant. Or for a different approach, play a low E pedal point on an instrument such as organ, piano, cello, or bass, and bring in harmonies (with voices or instrumental accompaniment) on the refrain. Read History of Hymns: "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" »

Prayers of the People (TFWS 2201)

Bonnie Johansen-Werner’s simple setting of this intercessory prayer can be very powerful in its direct prayer to usher in the reign of God and the connection of that prayer to the needs of the local community and the world. Even though there is a caesura (complete cutoff) written in the accompaniment score, it would also be possible to hold a soft Eb pedal point underneath the spoken intercessions and prayer requests. The recommended form in The Faith We Sing is as follows: Refrain, Petition 1, Response; Refrain, Petition 2, Response; and so on. Ideally, the leader of the prayer should also serve as the cantor. The accompaniment can range from organ to piano, to an arpeggiated guitar or other plucked instrument.

Prayers of the People (The Brilliance)

A wonderful addition to the modern worship music catalogue, this service music represents what is possible when combining modern music and liturgy. Short, cyclic choruses become responses as a part of congregational prayer. The A and B sections (“You hear us calling” and “Lord, have mercy”) are both equally usable as prayer responses. If you listen to the YouTube link in the worship order, you will notice a rolling accompaniment with many different instrumentalists. This kind of accompaniment gives a pulse to the prayers and is encouraged. However, keep in mind that whatever kind of accompaniment is possible with the musicians in your church is OK! Again, simpler accompaniments are oftentimes the best. For a keyboard, play simple chords on each beat. For a strummed instrument, something light, slightly syncopated, but steady is the best option.

This song is a great example of modern music created to serve a liturgical purpose, and it is very accessible to churches with any instrumental accompaniment. The song is not meant to stand alone as a song; it will require some intercessions to be created from the context of your community. Respond to each intercession with either the A theme (“You hear us calling”) or the B theme (“Lord, have mercy”). This poignant piece works with organ, piano, guitar, or any other simple accompaniment.

He Came Down (TFWS 2085)

Recommended this week as the first hymn of two during the offering, this Cameroonian work looks ahead and makes the connection that Christ “came down” to offer love, peace, and joy. Even though the cantor line is only written in the last measure of the song, it is also possible to begin with the cantor singing that question and, thus, setting the key for singing. Because both of the songs recommended for the offering this week are in the same key, it is advisable to get the opening pitch or tonic chord of G from the organ or piano. Sing this song a cappella with choir if possible, accompanied by djembes, shakers, and other percussion instruments. Here is an example of a basic rhythm to be played and improvised upon by the drums:

He Came Down rhythm

If a cappella singing is not an option in your context, it is also acceptable to accompany with organ, piano, or even a strummed guitar. However the accompaniment is played, make sure it is played with excitement!

How Lovely, Lord, How Lovely (TFWS 2042)

With this week’s thematic focus on “Come Down Home,” there must be a reference to the “abiding place” of God, and this modern paraphrase of Psalm 84 serves as a beautiful way to sing of God’s presence. Following “He Came Down,” there is also a movement resembling a meeting, in which God came to earth in flesh in the form of Christ and now dwells within us and all creation. Do not sing this hymn too slowly, or the lyricism of the tune will be lost. The best tempo will feel more like 2/2 (quarter note = 116), but it will allow for two musical phrases to become one, thus making it less choppy. The ideal accompaniment is piano or organ. Read History of Hymns: "How Lovely, Lord, How Lovely" »

As a Fire Is Meant for Burning (TFWS 2237)

Ruth Duck’s classic text uses the image from Isaiah 64:8 of God as a potter and us as clay, shaped and molded to “live to God’s delight.” BEACH SPRING was created as a pentatonic, shape-note hymn tune, and therefore, there are many ways to sing this hymn creatively:

  1. Sing the hymn as written with organ or piano accompaniment.
  2. Create a drone with either treble or bass clef voices on an open fifth (F and C above) and the other clef singing the melody.
  3. Sing the hymn in a round, either in one-measure, two-measure, or four-measure intervals.
  4. Any other creative possibilities you might envision using the notes F, G, A, C, and D!

Shout to the Lord (TFWS 2074)

This modern worship song from the 1990s speaks of the cosmic affirmation of Jesus as Lord of all creation. Again, the image of God coming down and the quaking mountains are echoed in this prominent song still featured in the CCLI Top 100 from Darlene Zschech and Hillsong. The best accompaniment for this song is a full band, but it is also possible to accompany with a small ensemble, piano, or solo guitar. Only the chorus is found in the Pew Edition of The Faith We Sing, but the lyrics can also be found within the Singers Edition of the same text or on the CCLI website. The key of A is included in The Faith We Sing, but the range of the verses in that key are very low and somewhat problematic for congregational singing. If singing in A, I recommend having an alto soloist sing the verses, with the choir and congregation joining at the chorus. If the congregation is singing the entire song, the key of Bb or B works best. Read History of Hymns: "Shout to the Lord" »

Good, Good Father (CCLI #7036612)

The nature of the Scripture this week could also lead to a singing of this recently composed song, which at the moment is at the top of the CCLI Top 100. The statement of God as a loving parent who knows our needs and calls us to move deeper in our understanding of our relationship with God and neighbor calls to mind the final statement from Isaiah 64 this week: “Now consider, we are all your people” (NRSV). The scriptural narrative acknowledges we are like clay in the potter’s hands, and so we become intertwined in the work of God as we are molded and shaped. It is in this context that the relationship between parent and child can be inferred. However, keep in mind the language in this song is very androcentric and begs to be balanced somehow in worship with a more expansive view of God, who, according to Article I in United Methodist Doctrinal Standards, is “without body or parts.” I don’t recommend changing the words in this song; rather, I recommend using enough balancing, non-male imagery within the other hymns and liturgy for this week if this song is to be included.

In This Series...

First Sunday of Advent 2017 Planning Notes Second Sunday of Advent 2017 Planning Notes Third Sunday of Advent 2017 Planning Notes Christmas Eve 2017 Planning Notes Fourth Sunday of Advent 2017 Planning Notes First Sunday After Christmas Day 2017 Planning Notes


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In This Series...

First Sunday of Advent 2017 Planning Notes Second Sunday of Advent 2017 Planning Notes Third Sunday of Advent 2017 Planning Notes Christmas Eve 2017 Planning Notes Fourth Sunday of Advent 2017 Planning Notes First Sunday After Christmas Day 2017 Planning Notes