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A little over three months ago, I shared “Beautiful Dark Things,” a piece of music along with an essay on drawing creative inspiration from nature. Sometime in September, I realized that the rhythm of that music fit well to the first half of Isaiah 60:1, “Arise, shine, Jerusalem; for thy light is come,” or in Latin, “Jerusalem surge illuminare, quia venit lumen tuum.” Cannibalizing a secular (or, as I often sense, just not overtly sacred) piece for use in sacred music is a venerable tradition. As Luther said, why should the devil have all the best tunes?
Not only did many Christmas hymns start out as secular carols, but even oratorios get in on the game. Handel repurposed several secular love duets for his Messiah. If you’re familiar with choruses from Handel’s Messiah such as, “For unto us a child is born,” “And he shall purify,” “His yoke is easy,” and “All we like sheep,” you’ll recognize them here. So, I’m in good company.
Advent is the season to await light in the darkness and, as often happens, Hanukkah falls spang in the middle of Advent this year. Although when I think of Isaiah 60:1, of course I think of the Christ Child, but that’s not all I think of. Celebrating the light is something the festivals of Christmas and Hanukkah have in common:
Here is a Google Drive link to the video for those who can’t get the embedded video to play. And here is the MP3 for those of you can’t get either video to play. (You’ll miss the display of the lyrics with the music, but at least you can listen):
We all await the light.
For @susanquinn, @iWe, and @fidelio102, in honor of Susan Quinn’s post, “A Jew Sings Christmas Carols.”Published in