A Hymn Text for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A

This hymn of the day for Advent 4A celebrates the events leading up to the birth of Jesus, but in such a way that the text could also be used during the Christmas season. Stanza one is inspired by the interchange between God and Ahaz in Isaiah 7:10, but transposed to recognize that the sign has been given in Jesus as Emmanuel, the name and title revealed to Joseph in the gospel appointed for today. Stanza two chose Isaiah 9:1 and the Prologue of the Gospel of John to reflect on the signs of God’s presence in light and word. Stanza three anticipates the incarnation mystery announced in the gospel reading today that Mary was “found with child through the Holy Spirit.” Stanza four reminds us that the child of Bethlehem grew to be a man who identified himself with the least of his brothers and sisters in Matthew 25:40.

I recommend that this 87.87.87.7 text be sung to DIVINUM MYSTERIUM although other hymn tunes might also be explored. The text is copyrighted by The Jan Michael Joncas Trust and published by Oregon Catholic Press in Within Our Hearts Be Born. The Michael Joncas Hymnary: Advent and Christmas.

“Seek a sign,” the prophet counseled,
“deep as earth or high as sky.
Seek a sign to bolster courage
when faith falters or hope dies.
Know that God will come to meet us
and within our midst will dwell:
God with us, Emmanuel.”

When we long had walked in darkness,
God appeared in glimm’ring light.
When we long had sat in silence,
God’s word echoed in the night.
Now our God has come to meet us
and within our midst to dwell
God with us, Emmanuel.

God’s great sign at last is given
for all those with eyes to see:
not as lightning rending heaven
but a child on mother’s knee.
Here our God has come to meet us
and within our midst to dwell:
God with us, Emmanuel.

Yet this sign today confronts us
with God’s presence to our race
in the child, the poor, the needy —
all who bear a human face.
Here our God still comes to meet us
and within our midst does dwell:
God with us, Emmanuel.

3 comments

  1. Michael, CWM RHONDDA works exceptionally well with this fine text. I think the tune gives more emphasis to the third word of each stanza (sign, long, sign, sign) than does DIVINUM MYSTERIUM. But, of course, how many folks know CWM RHONDDA?

    I could see this hymn having many more uses than just on Advent 4 (A), as your yourself suggest.

    And (Nit pick alert!) I wish you had kept the sixth line of stanza 4 the same as that of the other three stanzas, namely, and within our midst to dwell. The meaning would have been the same as you have it with the change in line 5: Here our God still comes to meet us and within our midst (still comes) to dwell. It would have avoided the less euphonious “midst does dwell.”

  2. Wonderful! I was hooked from the first line.

    I like any opportunity to use DIVINUM MYSTERIUM (or CYM RHONDDA, for that matter). Since I missed it for this year’s Advent IV-A, I’m looking forward to singing this one year soon…

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