Wednesday, December 1, 2010

O Come Emmanuel

I received this blessing of a book in the mail several years ago. It’s been a holy experience to journey with it each Advent since then. Gordon Giles does an amazing job of bringing together scripture with the hymns and carols it inspired. He offers history and legends, and introduces us to obscure saints as well as living poets and musicians of faith in this 2006 book subtitled “A Musical Tour of Daily Readings for Advent and Christmas.”

Giles is vicar of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church in Enfield, North London, and is trained in music, philosophy and theology. His knowledge is evident, as is his faith. Each day’s entry begins with a scripture passage, followed by a carol that illustrates it; some of the carols are familiar, some are not. Giles then explains the circumstances of the times when the carol was written, both in the world and in the church. He concludes with a prayer.

In his introduction, Giles writes: “It is my hope and prayer that this musical mystery tour of Advent and Christmas will help and inspire all of us to re-examine and notice what we sing and hear at this time of year.” That has certainly been the case for me. I feel God’s presence so strongly when I read the passages. They are a journey into the mystery, stillness, hope, peace and joy of this season. The readings begin on Dec. 1 and conclude Jan. 6 with Epiphany.

This would be a wonderful gift for a music lover, especially for a choir director or music teacher to give to students, or vice versa. Don’t be concerned that if it’s already past Dec. 1. This is the kind of book to be taken off the shelf and savored every Advent and Christmas.

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