December 14, 2009

Dec. 14: Save


By Deb Brubaker, professor of music

I remember the Advent wreath of my early years, centered on the kitchen table. It was made with fresh pine branches, encircling five candles on a red metal plate purchased on a summer trip to Minnesota. Each night our family of four would light the number of candles corresponding to the current week of Advent, and sing “O Come, O Come Immanuel.” My voice joined my mother’s and sister’s sopranos, while my dad did his best to trace the outline of the melody in his off-key baritone.

The lighting of the Advent wreath and the singing of “O Come” are still my most important practices during this penitential season of preparation. The aching melancholy of the 15th century chant that comprises the first half of this hymn embodies the anguish of waiting for a light, for deliverance, for goodness to burst upon the world and make things right. Save us, O God, from ourselves, from others, from the forces that beat upon us. O come, Immanuel, Rod of Jesse, Dayspring from on high.

When it seems as if we can bear the longing of the single line chant no more, the refrain of the hymn suddenly breaks into four-part harmony, an explosive contrast. The lyrics affirm for us that we wait in hope: “Rejoice, rejoice! Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

During Advent, as we wait to be delivered, we paradoxically realize that God’s saving energy has already entered this world through the form of Jesus Christ. We need look no further than a lighted candle or a burst of musical fullness to be reminded of its presence.



Comments (14)

  1. Thank you. I needed that reminder today.
    God is still coming. To all of us who are faithful and life has
    hit them hard, I ask that God wraps his arms around you
    and gives you love and guidance. I’m giving living water this
    Love Anyway.

    Dar Ehrhart December 14, 2009 |
  2. I so enjoyed your devotional this morning. While reading it the pandora radio was playing that song. (a favorite) A precious moment! Thanks

    Mom Johnson of Arienne December 14, 2009 |
  3. I love to hear of the formational effects of family worship rituals. I have been thinking about buying an advent wreath for my family, but your description of a special plate and fresh greenery sparks my imagination in new ways!

    Heidi Siemens-Rhodes December 14, 2009 |
  4. Deb: Thanks for so meaningfully combining audio and visual interpretations of the season in your excellent devotion. I appreciated it very much.

    Richard Aguirre December 14, 2009 |
  5. Wonderful devotion, Deb. Over the last two years this has become a tradition with Amanda and I and hope it will be meaningful also when we have a larger family.

    Andrew December 14, 2009 |
  6. Thanks for this beautiful devotion. Lighting advent candles has been a tradition of our family since my husband and I were married. Recently I gave an advent ring and candles to my daughter for her wedding shower.

    Linda Rouch December 14, 2009 |
  7. Dear Deb,
    Thank you for an articulate, spirit-lifting message that brought joy all the way out to an
    island in Puget Sound.
    As a musician, I hope you have heard or
    will hear the (for me) incredibly beautiful
    arrangement of the song you praised by
    Jessye Norman on her album “Christmastide.”

    All the best,
    Frank Moore

    Frank Moore December 14, 2009 |
  8. O Come, O Come Emmanuel is one of my favorite Advent hymns. The longing expressed in this hymn, as well as its ties to the traditional monastic daily liturgy, always sweep my spirit up into the Advent season. O Come Emmanuel! O Come God-with-us! Ransom us who are the Captive Israel, in exile and longing for your Reign! Rejoice, O Israel! Emmanuel WILL come to thee! The time is nigh! Praise God!

    Bruce W. Cory December 14, 2009 |
  9. Thank you, Deb, for this meditation. And thank you, also, for the gift you give the community in the Festival of Carols, and especially, in my mind, your work with the Women’s World Choir. Their performances always bring tears to my eyes.

    Mary Ellen Meyer December 14, 2009 |
  10. Thanks, Deb – This was a reminder I needed. The world seems so dark. Blessings to you and your family. June

    June Thomsen December 15, 2009 |
  11. Thanks, Deb, for this beautiful interpretation of O Come, O Come, Immanuel. Your comments will help me listen to and sing this song.

    Janice Sutter December 15, 2009 |
  12. “Save us from ourselves” — this in particular resonates for me. Thank you, Deb, for sharing this wonderful memory and the broader meaning such a ritual holds.

    Lisa Guedea Carreno December 16, 2009 |
  13. How lovely – thank you so much for giving even more meaning to that lovely song! God bless.

    Susie December 16, 2009 |
  14. what a marvelous way to see one’s own life in a song we sing.

    Stu Buisch December 24, 2009 |