Sitting through the tambourines at the end of mass (our usual Advent song, “Rise Up, Jerusalem,” involves tambourines… which I guess is slightly better than the bongo drums our previous parish used for, “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”), I started thinking of all the really great Advent and Christmas music out there (none of which, in my experience, requires bongos or tambourines or reminds you of “Age of Aquarius”).
So, instead of griping about more awful-60’s-folk-done-badly, I’m going to do an off-and-on series until Christmas is over (that would be Epiphany, not Christmas Day) on some of my favorite hymns for the season.
The reading for the lectionary for today, the second Sunday of Advent, included part of Isaiah 40:
 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” …  Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”  Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.  He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
Comfort, Comfort, O My People
by Johann Olearius
Comfort, comfort, O my people, speak of peace now says our God.
Comfort those who sit in darkness, mourning ‘neath their sorrows’ load.
Speak unto Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them;
Tell of all the sins I cover, and that warfare now is over.
Hark, the voice of one who’s crying in the desert far and near,
Bidding all to full repentance since the kingdom now is here.
O that warning cry obey! Now prepare for God away;
Let the valleys rise to meet him and the hills bow down to greet him.
O make straight what long was crooked, make the rougher places plain;
Let your hearts be true and humble, as befits His holy reign.
For the glory of the Lord now o’er earth is shed abroad;
And all flesh shall see the token that His word is never broken.