Friday, December 4, 2009


One of my favorite Bible passages is the Magnificat, which my Good News Bible titles "Mary's Song of Praise." It's a poem of praise that has been set to music countless times. I particularly remember hearing it performed as part of "The Black Nativity" in Minneapolis one year. That year the star of the show was Jennifer Holliday (of "Dreamgirls" fame), who played the role of an angel, and she sang several incredible show-stopping numbers that had the crowd on its feet over and over.

But in the middle of act one, sandwiched between raucous gospel songs, was the simple beauty of a woman signing the Magnificat. She had just been told that she was pregnant and she smiled and laughed with pure joy before launching into a sweet and simple melody. The opening phrase of the song is still one that I sing to myself. If I close my eyes, I can remember seeing her elated smile. It helps remind me of the many blessings in my life and reasons to be thankful.

This Sunday, I'll be playing Buxtehude's Magnificat as the prelude. If you don't listen closely, it might sound just like any other Baroque organ music. But I hope that you notice the ascending scales, the sixteenth notes that trip over each other with joy, and that you meditate on the famous text "My soul doth magnify the Lord" as a great way to start celebrating the second Sunday of Advent.

The anthem of the day will be "My Song in the Night," arranged by Paul J. Christiansen. It's a Southern folk hymn that ties into the theme of joy, beginning with these words: "O Jesus my Savior, my song in the night, come to us with Thy tender love, my souls' delight. Unto thee, O Lord, in affliction I call, my comfort by day and my song in the night."

(My writing has been sparse this week because I've been caught up in end-of-semester projects on top of decorating the house and all that goes along with the holidays. I appreciate all the comments and dialogue on the blog lately, though, and I'll try to maintain my writing pace next week!)


  1. Thanks Tom and Cassie for teaching us that song! It is one of those that stick in my head and overrides any negative or worriesome thoughts. I hope it affected the congregation as well.

    Joanne Sadlon

  2. It was a beautiful song and the choir did a beautiful job with it. Thanks.

  3. Few songs can compare to "My Song in the Night" for simple beauty combined with an elegant text, in my opinion, and Dr. Christianson's setting gives a preview of the St. Olaf sound you will bet to hear more of in Feb.