This is the week that I listen to Bach’s Cantata 140 “Wachet auf” in preparation for the last Sunday in the church year. There are so many things that I love about this cantata and the hymn on which it is based. Here’s just one.
There are two soprano-bass arias. As Bach tends to do, the bass is the Vox Christi, the voice of Christ, and the soprano is the voice of the Christian soul (or perhaps the church). In the first of these, it is the bride who asks the bridegroom “when are you coming?” His response is “I’m coming.” Then she sings, “Come, Jesus.” Again, he replies, “I’m coming.”
Isn’t that just the way it is with Jesus and his bride? She keeps on asking, because life in this world—waiting for him—is hard, and she wants nothing more than to see him and be with him, and because she loves him.
His response is always the same. His word and promise never change. But it’s comforting to hear his promise from his voice.
And the amazing thing about this piece of music—it makes me cling to the voice of Christ all the more.
About a month ago, Hannah and Andrew each played a piece of music in an Organ Symposium here in El Paso, when several organists from around the area get together and play a piece or two for each other. Here is a video of the end of Hannah’s piece, just after she had been playing on two manuals, and after changing pistons midway through the song. I love that we’re able to give them the opportunity to try and experience things just like this.
This morning I shaved with a new razor. But not really new. It is a safety razor which belonged to my grandfather, Andrew Linkert. It was made in 1970 by Gillette.
I have been wetshaving using a double-edge safety razor for around eight years now. What made me think of looking for one of Grandpa’s razors was actually Dr. T. David Gordon, author of Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns (great book, btw). He was speaking at worship conference about our modern notion that what is new is better, and how new isn’t always that much of an improvement. He gave the example of shaving with his father’s (or grandfather’s) straight razor, which he said gives a better shave than the disposable blades available today, lasts longer, better for the environment, and so on. And being able to hand it down to another generation is a feature, too.
I didn’t expect that it would still be around—Grandpa’s been gone 15 years—but my Aunt Martha found it and sent it to me. After a little soap, water, and elbow grease, it looks almost like new. It certainly works just fine. The blades I have fit perfectly—which cost less than 25¢ apiece. It’s not as heavy as the Merkur I have, but that will just take getting used to.
“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”
“The sure mark of an unliterate man is that he considers ‘I’ve read it already’ to be a conclusive argument against reading a work.…Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty, or thirty times during the course of their life.”
Here is a list of books that I’ve read several times and repeatedly find their way onto my reading stack. I’ve excluded the books that are a constant part of my reading and studying, namely, the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord.
I laughed out loud when I came to this passage tonight as I was reading to Lydia:
After that, the Head’s friends saw that she was no use as a Head, so they got her made an Inspector to interfere with other Heads. And when they found out she wasn’t much good even at that, they got her into Parliament where she lived happily ever after.
—C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
When I was a kid, I used to page through the hymnal in church—often while sitting with my mom during choir practices. I remember looking for hymns written by men named Johann. It was noteworthy, then, when I came across a hymn whose text and tune were both written by men who shared a name with me. Until I was older, I had never met anyone else who had the same name I did. But I had friends in the hymnal. And as I have grown older, I have realized that I share much more with these men than a name.
By the end of December, I will have prepared and delivered fifteen sermons or devotions for services during this month. These are for our Sunday Divine Service, as well as Matins and Vespers services for Advent and Christmas.
But in the midst of a month of near constant preparation to preach, a preacher needs a few sermons, too. I have been able to find those in the church cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach. I have become particularly attached to two cantatas for Advent, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Savior of the Nations, Come) BWV 61 and Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn! BWV 132. The librettos for these works, one by Erdmann Neumeister (God’s Own Child I Gladly Say it) and the other by Salomo Franck are just incredible.
Both cantatas are on volume 7 of the collection of church cantatas by the Bach Collegium Japan. I highly recommend these recordings of all of Bach’s cantatas. [If I can figure it out, I’ll add a widget to this post that will allow you to preview this album.]
I took this photo after getting to church on the morning of the first Sunday in Advent.
He comes to judge the nations, A terror to his foes, A light of consolations, And blessed hope to those Who love the Lord’s appearing. O glorious Sun, now come, Send forth your beams most cheering, And guide us safely home. (O Lord, How Shall I Meet You, CW 18, st 5)
The photo doesn’t capture the reds that colored the morning sky over El Paso. This is the other hymn that came to mind:
O’er the distant mountains breaking Comes the redd’ning dawn of day. Rise, my soul, from sleep awaking; Rise and sing and watch and pray. ‘Tis your Savior, ‘Tis your Savior, On his bright returning way.
(CW 220, st 1)
On my way home from church today I saw a Christmas tree in the window of one of the homes on our street. People who listen to the radio have told me that local stations have started playing Christmas music. Certainly, the marketing machine for the holiday shopping season is revved up and ready to move. The more patient among us wait until the Thanksgiving Turkey is carved to begin with all things Christmas—though December is not really Christmas. Neither, by the way, is Advent. Why is it that no one can wait for Christmas? Hermann Sasse once wrote:
The world cannot wait. It is in a hurry because its time is nearing its end. It must always immediately have it all, otherwise it is too late. The church can wait. She has learned to do so in the course of nineteen centuries (The Lonely Way I, p. 432).