Music and reflections from the Grammy award-winning composer of “O Emmanuel”
The following is the conclusion of a series, bringing to life the texts of the O Antiphons and the antiphons for Christmas with the music of JJ Wright. Here are a few words from Wright about the composition of the piece in relation to the the meaning of the sacred text:
When the sun rises in the morning sky, you will see the King of kings coming forth from the Father like a radiant bridegroom from the bridal chamber.
These last two movements ofO Emmanuelpaint a picture of an earth where Christ has finally arrived. The “sunrise” theme reappears at the beginning of “When the sun rises in the morning sky” and throughout the movement, what starts as one child singing develops into the entire ensemble repeating the idea. It’s like a big secret getting passed around the world, all starting with the voice of the single child. As the jazz trio takes over the texture, we make the final transition to Christ’s presence in the world. Christ is born, and the children’s choir chants “Hodie christus natus est” – “Christ the Lord is born today” – like the choir of angels who looked upon the manger in Bethlehem.
How can we comprehend what the Advent and Christmas seasons have to offer for our own lives and then bring it forth through our actions? Advent can be a time of self reflection and preparation by asking questions like what is life like without Christ? Without hope? Out of this connection to our deepest selves comes an inspired life, driven by hope – a life that embodies God’s love. It yields inspiration in our families and in our careers and helps us realize the hope and joy that is present when we are willing to believe that our deepest desires are also our truest calling from God. We realize that action rooted in bringing Christ into the world bears the mark of the most authentic version of ourselves.
Christ the Lord is born today;
today, the Savior has appeared.
Earth echoes songs of angel choirs,
archangels’ joyful praise.
Today on earth his friends exult.
Glory to God in the highest, alleluia.
This final movement gives us a moment to rest in the peace and stillness of the fulfillment of the prophecy. Christ has arrived on earth and our only response is “Glory to God in the Highest”. The instrumental flourishes are like the sounds of all creation overflowing with joy and we are left with a mesmerizing and meditative chant – all the voices of creation singing together “Alleluia”.
Christmas is when Christ enters the fabric of our history and becomes present, a time when I can make Christ present in my “now”. At Christmas, we aren’t waiting for something to happen to us anymore, we can become the happening itself. We can make Christ alive in ourselves and bring him into the world – we can bear the Messiah, and claim our place in God’s story of salvation for humanity.