One of the many musical highlights for me each Advent is when I get the opportunity to play the three chorale preludes that Johann Sebastian Bach composed based on the tune Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (the tune that we know to Savior of the nations, come! Hymn #54 in The Hymnal 1982).

I learned these three pieces in graduate school and have played them annually every year since then. The first setting, BWV 659, happens to be one of my favorite pieces to play on the organ by any composer. It’s the easiest of the three chorale preludes that Bach wrote on this tune but I find myself swept into a semi-hypnotic state when I play it. The piece starts out with a plodding bass line played in the pedals. A professor suggested to me to think of this as the slowly approaching Savior. I’m not sure it is as enjoyable to listen to as it is to play, but to me it is the perfect Advent piece.

The work continuously moves forward as the walking bass pushes the music ahead. The tune, played in the right hand, is highly ornamented – I’m not sure one could identify the tune just by listening to the right hand. But, it’s just another example of Bach’s brilliance. Bach sticks on a little “coda” for the final three measures – a little flourish perhaps to celebrate the final arrival of the end of the chorale. I invite you to listen to the recording below and use it as your Advent meditation for today.

Click here to link to the recording.