st. 1 = Isa. 9:6-7
st. 2 = Mic. 5:2-4
st. 3 = Luke 2: 8-12
st. 4 = Luke 2: 13-14
st. 5 = Luke 2:4-7
Bert Witvoet (PHH 4) wrote this text and tune in 1980 for use at Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, Toronto, Ontario. Bert Polman (PHH 37), Fellowship's organist, prepared the harmonization in 1981. The hymn was first published in Christian Schools International's Hymn of the Month (set 5, 1981). Witvoet intended that the hymn be used during Advent as part of the lighting of candles on an Advent wreath. Although there are various traditions of readings and names for the Advent candles, the pattern associated with this hymn is as follows:
- First Sunday of Advent: the prophets' candle, st. 1
- Second Sunday of Advent: the Bethlehem candle, st. 2,
- Third Sunday of Advent: the shepherds' candle, st. 3
- Fourth Sunday of Advent: the angels' candle, st. 4
- Christmas Day: the Christ candle, st. 5
The procedure for the lighting of Advent candles is as follows: on the first Sunday of Advent, light one candle, read the Bible passage for stanza 1, and then sing the stanza. On the second Sunday review the meaning of the first candle and light the second candle. Read the Bible passage and sing stanzas 1 and 2. Follow the same pattern on the third and fourth Sundays of Advent. On Christmas Day review the meaning of all the candles and light the Christ candle. Sing all five stanzas of the hymn.
As the first candle is lit, think of the prophets who foretold the coming of Christ. When the Bethlehem candle is lit, think of Micah foretelling that Christ would be born in Bethlehem. On the third Sunday remember that in Bethlehem lived shepherds who expected the Messiah. On the fourth Sunday of Advent think of the angels bringing the message of Christ's birth to those shepherds. And on Christmas Day think of Christ's birth and what it means to you.
Properly observed, the Advent wreath carries with it a cumulative effect. Each week more light shines, symbolic of that "light" that John 1: 9 says “was coming into the world.”
For worship services on the four Advent Sundays and on Christmas Day.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook