Singing Scripture for Advent (Plus one for the Epiphany!)

About 4 or 5 months ago we started making a conscious effort to sing Scripture every week in church. It's not that we never sang Scripture; it's just that we treated it like any other song and so we might go weeks (or months) without singing the Bible. So, since the summer, we have a particular moment in the service where we sing a Psalm.

For Advent, however, we're doing things a bit differently. Rather than a Psalm, we're going to sing a Paraphrase from elsewhere in Scripture. (We're singing Paraphrases because they're in Common Metre and so we can sing them all to a tune we know.) So each week we'll be singing a few verses to Winchester (the tune of While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night, which is simply the paraphrase of Luke 2:8-15 (which we'll sing the Sunday before Christmas).

On Sunday I was teaching the children about the annunciation and Mary's visit to Elizabeth, so we sang the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56). To be fair, it was a bit of a novelty, but everyone knew the tune and so managed to sing along without any problems.

Here are the words (which you can fit to any familiar Common Metre tune):
My soul and spirit, filled with joy,
my God and Saviour praise,
Whose goodness did from poor estate
his humble handmaid raise.

Me bless’d of God, the God of might,
all ages shall proclaim;
From age to age his mercy lasts,
and holy is his name.

Strength with his arm th’ Almighty shewed;
the proud his looks abased;
He cast the mighty to the ground,
the meek to honour raised.

The hungry with good things were filled,
the rich with hunger pined:
He sent his servant Isr’el help,
and called his love to mind;

Which to our fathers’ ancient race
his promise did ensure,
To Abrah’m and his chosen seed
forever to endure.
Another appropriate Paraphrase for singing at this time of year is Isa. 9:6-7. Here's the old Scottish paraphrase, but you can also find a modern metrical translation for singing in Sing Scripture (It's No. 1 there).
To us a Child of hope is born;to us a Son is giv’n;Him shall the tribes of earth obey,him all the hosts of heav’n.

His name shall be the Prince of Peace,for evermore adored,The Wonderful, the Counsellor,the great and mighty Lord.

His pow’r increasing still shall spread,his reign no end shall know;Justice shall guard his throne above,and peace abound below.
Again, we'll sing it to the tune of While Shepherd's Watched, simply because we know the tune so well, but you can hear a great new tune by Bruce Benedict for this paraphrase here. (Lead Sheet).

And, in case people get bored of the tune Winchester, how about Zechariah's Song (the Benedictus) to the tune of O Little Town of Bethlehem? The words for the metrical version of the Benedictus in Common Worship (on that page it's 55b) will work to that tune (just leave out the two line doxology at the end). (Or, if you really particularly love the tune of While Shepherds Watched, you can still use it for this one by splitting each verse in two!) And here's another metrical version in Long Metre, which would fit tunes like Arizona ('Tis Finished the Messiah Dies), Mainzer (Jesus Thy Blood and Righteousness), Old 100th (All People That On Earth Do Dwell), or Rockingham (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross). (Sorry, I can't think of a Christmas Carol in LM.)

Last but not least, as we've got the other gospel canticles here, we might as well have the Nunc Dimittis (Simeon's Song - Luke 2:29-32) as well (which would be particularly appropriate for the Epiphany). Here are the old Scottish paraphrase words. (Again, it's Common Metre, so still works to While Shepherd's Watched):
Now, Lord! according to thy word,
let me in peace depart;
Mine eyes have thy salvation seen,
and gladness fills my heart.

At length my arms embrace my Lord,
now let their vigour cease;
At last my eyes my Saviour see,
now let them close in peace.

This great salvation, long prepared,
and now disclosed to view,
Hath proved thy love was constant still,
and promises were true.

That Sun I now behold, whose light
shall heathen darkness chase,
And rays of brightest glory pour
around thy chosen race.
Well, there you go. Maybe you don't think singing the gospel canticles or Scripture paraphrases sounds all that Pentecostal, but just think of the old Pentecostal choruses - many of those were just verses of Scripture. It's good to sing God's Word.