Since our Gospel reading is the account from St. Matthew of Jesus’s baptism, our service features two hymns that are centered around the baptism and the Baptist. Our Processional Hymn is one we could have sung during Advent, but I saved it for this week. Despite his profound role in the history of redemption, John the Baptist doesn’t have a lot of hymnody connected with him, at least not in our Hymnal.
But we do have “On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry.” The text is by Charles Coffin (1676-1749), who was noted in his lifetime for his Latin poetry. John Henry Newman published a collection of a number of Coffin’s Latin hymns in 1838, when Newman was still in the Anglican Church. Coffin also wrote “What star is this, with beams so bright” (Hymn #47) and a hymn we sang on the third Sunday of Advent, “The Advent of our King.”
Last week, many of the Propers used texts from Psalm 100, which declares the universality of God’e rule and calls all creatures on earth to sing a joyful song to him. That theme continues this week, but the texts sung are from a parallel passage, Psalm 66. Our Introit connects two verses from that psalm: “All the world shall worship thee, O God: sing of thee, and praise thy Name, O thou Most Highest. O be joyful in God, all ye lands, sing praises unto the honour of his Name: make his praise to be glorious.”
The Gradual for this Sunday is from Psalm 107:20-21: “The Lord sent his Word and healed them: and they were saved from their destruction. O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness and declare the wonders that he doeth for the children of men.” The text for the Alleluia is from Psalm 148, continuing and extending the theme of universal praise offered to God: “Praise the Lord, all ye Angels of his: praise him all his host.”
Our Sermon hymn is from an older Lutheran hymnal, “To Jordan came our Lord, the Christ.” You can read a “biography” of this hymn here, and listen to how it has been used by a number of composers.
Since weather prevented our choir from getting to services last week, the Offertory Anthem and Communion Motet have been “repurposed” for presentation this Sunday. I discussed both pieces in last week’s post.
You may notice that the name of the tune for our closing hymn is SICILIAN MARINERS. This name reflects the fact that the melody was written down by the German poet, Johann Gottfried von Herder after a trip to Italy in the late 18th century. Whether the sailors in question ever actually sang this tune remains a mystery.