"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"

Monday, November 28, 2016

I love singing Advent and Christmas hymns and carols, but I don’t always stop to think about the words or the work the lyricist/poet put into writing them. So between now and the end of the year, I’m going to look at the lyrics of five Advent and Christmas carols, starting with an old standard: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

According to Hymnary.org, the text is taken from a 7-verse poem that dates back to the 8th century. J.M. Neale translated it into English in 1851.

The author is unknown, so how can we understand his thought process in writing the poem? (And yes, given that it is an ancient text, the poet was probably a he.) Actually, we can tell a lot from the poem’s structure. First, each verse reflects a different Biblical name for and description of Christ. For example, the first verse calls Him Emmanuel, which means “God with us,” and “Son of God.”

Second, Hymnary.org says the original Latin verses created a reverse acrostic on the term ero cras, which means “I shall be with you tomorrow.” Unfortunately, the acrostic was lost in translation. Still, it’s presence in the original reinforces the poem’s traditional use as an Advent hymn.

If you look at “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” in more than one hymnal, you may find that the first verse and the refrain are the same (except for minor variations in spelling), but that the other verses use slightly different wording. That’s to be expected from a hymn that is centuries old and was originally written in another language. Even the refrain was probably a later addition. But the text of the hymn has remained true to the original meaning, which celebrates the various names and attributes of Jesus and looks for His return.

Here is the text of all 7 verses as found in The Lutheran Service Book published by Concordia Publishing House.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who ord’rest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go. Refrain.
O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain.
O come, Thou Branch of Jesse’s tree,
Free them from Satan’s tyranny
That trust Thy mighty pow’r to save,
And give them vict’ry o’er the grave. Refrain.
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery. Refrain.
O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight. Refrain.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace. Refrain.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Choose Your Audience

Monday, November 21, 2016

When I ask new writers who their audience is, they often say, “everybody.” That would be fine if all people were alike, but they aren’t. In writing, as in speaking, you must write (or speak) to a specific audience. If others enjoy it as well, that’s a bonus. But authors who write sweet romances aren’t going to attract many male readers, and that’s okay.

For the past two months, I have been selfishly aiming my blog posts at an audience of two, Roland and me, to preserve our sailing memories. I’m glad that some of you came along, and I hope you enjoyed the posts. But you weren’t my chosen audience. I made a conscious decision to write for two people.

That’s the point. Every writer should know who he or she is writing for before starting a new project, whether it be a holiday letter, a blog post, or a novel. Choose your audience, and then keep those people in mind as you write. If your holiday letter goes only to close family, maybe they care about the flu that kept you from getting anything done in May. But if it goes to friends and extended family, they probably don’t.

When making your choice, consider the medium as well. Looking back, I realize that blog posts aren’t the best way to preserve memories for such a small audience. So I apologize if I wasted your time.

You don’t need to write for a million people, and it’s okay to be selfish now and then. But be sure you know who you are writing to.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Sailing Lake Michigan--Southbound

Monday, November 14, 2016

As mentioned last week, we spent an extra night at Ludington, Michigan, during our 2011 sailing vacation because of the strong storms forecast for the afternoon. That was after the severe storm we had experienced while we were at Holland and before others that we would still encounter. Fortunately for us, the worst weather occurred while we were docked.

But others weren’t so fortunate. The Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac—better known as the Chicago-Mac—took place while we were on vacation. In its 103-year history, the race had seen its share of bad storms and overturned and damaged boats, but nobody had lost their life. That year, however, two sailors died while we were at Ludington. They were farther north, but it does say something about the nature of the storms over Lake Michigan.

We left Ludington for Muskegon after the storms had passed but while conditions were still not ideal. We needed both pairs of eyes for lookouts as we motored through dense fog in the morning. It cleared up in the afternoon, but it was a long day with nine hours on the water.

Coming into Muskegon, we passed two prominent lights—the Muskegon South Breakwater Light and the Muskegon South Pier Light. Both are painted red and shaped like silos, and you can see them in the picture at the head of this post. The tan building is the Coast Guard station.

We also had an up-close-and-personal look at the Lake Express high-speed ferry between Muskegon and Milwaukee. It wasn’t as nerve-wracking as our experience with the Badger, though. This time we saw the ferry coming toward us before we entered the channel, so we circled inside the breakwater until it went by.

On our first morning in Muskegon, we went to the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum, just up the street from the marina. The exhibits were mostly about submarines and their involvement in the Pacific during World War II. The gem was the World War II submarine U.S.S. Silversides. We took self-guided tours of the submarine and of a decommissioned Coast Guard Cutter, UCCGC McLane. The highlight of the submarine tour was Roland’s attempts to get through the inner hatches, which weren’t made for tall men. That’s the next picture.

We had planned to leave the following morning and we did—sort of. The wind blew us into the dock as we tried to depart, and a few small pieces of wood splintered off the dock. Our port lifelines got stretched, and my hand temporarily came between the boat and the dock, giving me a blood blister. But there was no damage to the side of the boat at all. Still, it should have been a warning.

Once we got out onto Lake Michigan, the high waves bounced us all over the place, so we chickened out and returned to Muskegon. It wasn’t a lost day, though. That afternoon we took the trolley to see the historic Hackley and Hume homes. Hackley was a lumber baron, and Hume became his partner later on. The houses, which are right next to each other, are both ornate but in different ways.

We finally left Muskegon the next morning, intending to go all the way to Holland. However, the weather forecast called for possible thunderstorms for the next two days, so we stopped at Grand Haven and spent two nights there. Again, we had a good view of the show from the musical fountain. As soon as it concluded on the second night, I got ready for bed. Then I heard a very loud ship’s whistle and Roland called down to come outside immediately and bring my camera. A lake freighter was coming up the river and passing close by the marina. We were safely out of the way in our slip, but it was a pretty big ship for that small river. You can see the results of my night photography below.

When we left Grand Haven, we decided to bypass Holland and go all the way to St. Joseph. It was a long day on the water, and St. Joe was just a place to spend the last night on our way home.

Even the final day had its bit of drama. The waves were a little rough when we left St. Joe, and we hadn’t been gone very long before Roland noticed that one of the two lines from the dingy to the hitch that attached it to the boat was broken. We didn’t want to lose the dingy, so Roland slowed Freizeit down, put on a harness, and worked from the rear step while I drove. It took two tries to attach a new rope, but we did it. All while underway, too.

That was our last sailing vacation. We tried two other times, but mechanical problems and bad weather worked against us. And over the last few years, uncooperative weather and various obligations have left us with very little time on the water.

So it is time to sell the boat.

But we will keep the memories.

Sailing Lake Michigan--Northbound

Monday, November 7, 2016

Freizeit’s last sailing trip—and ours—came in 2011, when Roland and I sailed up the eastern coast of Lake Michigan. The trip had two purposes. One was to spend several days at Holland, Michigan, with my mother and brothers cleaning out Mama’s house. The other purpose was for pure vacation fun. I was retired from my salaried job and Roland had the summer off, so we could take as long as we wanted.

We were gone for three weeks.

Our first stop was at New Buffalo, Michigan, which was just a place to spend the night. From there, we went to South Haven. It’s a small town with a decent marina and a nice pier. We stayed there two nights and found time to relax. The picture shows the pier at dusk.

From South Haven, we motored to Saugatuck. The wind would have been great if we were going in the other direction—or if we didn’t have a destination in mind and could go wherever the wind took us. But since we had to be in Holland in a couple of days and wanted to spend one of them in the Saugatuck area, motoring was our only option. At least it was an option. I can’t imagine the olden times when ships had to rely entirely on the wind.

We spent those two nights at a marina in Douglas, which is across the Kalamazoo River from Saugatuck. The location was convenient for touring the S.S. Keewatin, which was considered a luxury passenger ship in its day (1908 to 1965). Then after lunch we walked to the chain ferry that crosses the river between Douglas and Saugatuck. It would have been good exercise on a cooler day, but it was a tiring walk in the heat. We when we got there, we took the hand-cranked chain ferry across the river. After walking around Saugatuck (through streets filled with artsy shops aimed at tourists), we took a bus back to the marina.

The next day was Sunday, so we went to church before heading up to Holland. We were docked by 1:00 p.m. and had time to do laundry and a few other things before we would start cleaning out Mama’s house the following day.

On Monday morning, we were eating breakfast and listening to the radio when a weather alert came on warning of high winds and severe storms in the area. Roland immediately went outside and tied the boat up as securely as possible, and we unplugged all the electronics. We had almost finished battening down the hatches when the rain came.

The storm created massive power outages and brought down some huge trees, including some of the most stately ones in the Pine Grove at my alma mater (Hope College). But the boat and its contents were safe, and Mama’s house only lost power for a minute or so. Still, we were glad we weren’t out on the lake.

After spending three days cleaning out Mama’s house, we sailed up to Grand Haven, which has a “musical fountain” that puts on a music and light show after dark. We had a perfect view from where we were docked.

The next day we went to White Lake. We usually docked at municipal marinas, but this time we stayed at the Yacht Club, instead. We chose it because it was the closest marina to the White Lake Light Station, which is a historical lighthouse that is now a museum. Someone told us it was about a mile or a mile-and-a-half walk, but it seemed much longer than that in the heat. We had to walk back, as well, because we hadn’t ridden our bikes and we had no other means of transportation.

From White Lake, we sailed up to Ludington. We passed a number of homes on top of the bluff/dunes. Great views, but a l-o-o-o-n-g way down to the beach, as you can see from the next picture.

Our first full day in Ludington was a Sunday, and we went to church at St. John’s Lutheran, which is LCMS (the same denomination we belong to). LCMS has two seminaries, and Fort Wayne is more liturgically conservative than St. Louis is. I tell you that so you can understand our experience with the service.

The pastor of St. John’s went to the Fort Wayne seminary. The announcement sheet told visitors that St. John’s provided a blended service, offering “contemporary, as well as traditional music, along with a selected mix of liturgy and creeds.” It may have been a Fort Wayne seminary idea of a blended service, but the music was so contemporary that my father used it in his traditional services in the 1960s. In fact, the entire service reminded me of my childhood.

The plan for Monday was to sail north just far enough to take pictures of Big Sable Point Lighthouse from the lake and then head south past Ludington to Pentwater.  However, we modified our plans because the weather forecast called for strong storms in the afternoon. We made the trip north, hoping that it wouldn’t be too overcast to take good pictures, and the sun did come out—briefly—at just the right moment. That’s Big Sable Point Lighthouse in the picture at the head of this post.

We were almost back to Ludington when the storms started. We got soaked, but the thunder and lightning stayed in the distance and the wind speed did not increase enough to be a problem. By the time we reached the entrance to the channel, the sun was trying to come out again.

That day had another adventure, as well. We had hoped to beat the large S.S. Badger car-ferry through the channel, but it left just as we did and moved faster. The channel was wide enough for both and the Badger passed without incident. Still, it wasn’t comfortable watching that big ship bearing down on us.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse was as far north as we got. Next week I’ll tell you about the trip back south.