Savior of the Nations, Come - LSB 332

There have been untold thousands (more like millions) of hymns written in the Christian Church throughout the centuries. Of those, just a small percentage have stood the test of time and are still sung today. This month we’ll study one of the great ancient hymns of the Church. “Savior of the Nations, Come” comes from the fourth century A.D. and the text is attributed to St. Ambrose of Milan (340-397). Ambrose was one of the great Latin church fathers (so-called because he wrote in Latin) and was bishop of Milan from 374-397. He battled the Arian heresy, which attacked the divinity of Christ and said “there was a time when He [Jesus Christ] was not,” meaning that He was a created being. This hymn is full of vibrant Christology, proclaiming the truth of Christ’s full divinity and full humanity in a time when the Arian heresy was very popular. 

The text of the hymn, originally written in Latin, comes to us through the German language by way of Martin Luther (1483-1546). Luther first published it in a hymnal in 1524. Our English translation is based on an English translation by William M. Reynolds (1812-1876) with some modifications. The tune, NUN KOMM, DER HEIDEN HEILAND, is based on a 12th or 13th century plainsong, which Luther then simplified and adapted into what we have today.

Stanza One
Savior of the nations, come, Virgin’s Son, make here Your home! Marvel now, O heaven and earth, That the Lord chose such a birth.

We should indeed marvel that the Son of God would choose to condescend to us and be born as a human. No self-respecting god in the Norse, Greek, or Roman pantheon would ever do such a thing. Yet the only-begotten Son of the one true God did just that, all because of His great love for us. So marvel, o Christian, that your Creator chose to become like His creation, a creation that had rejected Him and would do so throughout His entire earthly life. That is love!

Stanza Two
Not by human flesh and blood, By the Spirit of our God, Was the Word of God made flesh-- Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.

We confess in the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.” The Nicene Creed similarly says Jesus was “incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” Christ did not come to earth against His will, but willingly. He knew what He was getting Himself into and yet He came anyway. 

Stanza Three
Here a maid was found with child, Yet remained a virgin mild. In her womb this truth was shown: God was there upon His throne.

Elizabeth called Mary “blessed” in Luke 1:42, and so too the Church has called her throughout the centuries, often calling her the Blessed Virgin Mary. This can be taken too far, certainly, to the point that some lose sight of why Mary is blessed. But Elizabeth says more in Luke 1:42: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Mary is blessed because God chose for her to be the Jesus’ mother. The Church has historically called her Theotokos, which means “Mother of God” in Greek and that is completely true. In confessing Mary as “Mother of God,” we are confessing the full divinity of Jesus Christ, a vital doctrine of Christianity. So, let us continue to honor Mary, not because of anything special about her, and not taking it to the extremes that some Christians have throughout the centuries, but because God chose to bring Jesus into the world through her. 

Stanza Four
Then stepped forth the Lord of all From His pure and kingly hall; God of God, yet fully man, His heroic course began.

From His conception to His death, Christ was here on earth for one purpose: to save His people from their sins. Even as an infant in a manger His course was set and the cross was in His sights. From the time of His birth His eyes were set towards Jerusalem and the death He would die on Mount Calvary for our sins, as well as His triumph over the grave on the third day.

Stanza Five
God the Father was His source Back to God He ran His course. Into hell His road went down, Back then to His throne and crown.

This language echoes the words of the Apostles’ Creed so well and in fact it summarizes the second article very nicely. Christ came from God, did His work, which included proclaiming his victory to those in hell, and then rose on the third day, and ascended to the right hand of the Father forty days later. His mission is complete, “it is finished.”

Stanza Six
For You are the Father’s Son Who in flesh the victory won. By Your mighty power make whole All our ills of flesh and soul.

This stanza serves as a prayer to Christ and follows the form of the various collects of the day that we use. It addresses Christ as the Father’s Son (“For You are the Father’s Son”), it gives the reason why we’d pray to Him (“Who in flesh the victory won”), and then brings the petition to Christ (“By Your mighty power make whole All our ills of flesh and soul”). All that is missing is the termination, “for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen,” which we do actually get in the final stanza. This stanza is also a wonderful confession of the absolute confidence we, as Christians, can have in Christ, for He does indeed cure all our ills, for in the Resurrection on the Last Day we will no longer have our sinful bodies, but will live eternally in our perfect bodies in the presence of Christ.

Stanza Seven
From the manger newborn light Shines in glory through the night. Darkness there no more resides; In this light faith now abides.

From the most unlikely place, a crude wooden manger in the small town of Bethlehem, comes the Light that shines in the darkness, a Light which no darkness can ever overcome. There is no time or place this Light cannot reach. He gives us His Life, and that Life is the Light for all humankind. We live in the Light of Christ and we look forward to the Day when, around the throne of God, Christ will be the Light and darkness will be no more. Then we will sing praises to God forever and ever. 

Stanza Eight
Glory to the Father sing, Glory to the Son, our king, Glory to the Spirit be Now and through eternity.

The praises we will sing in eternity we begin here on earth as we sing one final doxology to the Triune God who gives us everything we need for this body and life, as well as the life to come. Amen! Yes, yes, it shall be so!

Seelenbräutigam, Jesus, Gottes Lamm (Bridegroom, Thou Art Mine) - WH 260

For this month’s hymn I’m going outside of the Lutheran Service Book to the first hymnal of the LCMS: Kirchengesangbuch fur Evangelisch-Lutherische Gemeinden ungeanderter Augsburgischer Confession (Church Hymnbook for Evangelical Lutheran Congregations of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.) C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the LCMS assembled this hymnal and had it published in 1847. This book served the Missouri Synod until the first English language hymnal was published in 1913. Concordia Publishing House published an English version of the hymnal, translated and edited by Matthew Carver, in 2012. 

The text and tune of this hymn were both written by Adam Drese (1620-1701), who was born in Thuringia and served as court musician and Kapellmeister in various places in the region. I was first introduced to this hymn while visiting with a member who grew up singing it at Trinity, Monitor. This hymn has 15 stanzas and I will be presenting all of them without comment, as they speak for themselves. If you want to sing the hymn, the tune is found in Lutheran Service Book  at hymn 718 “Jesus, Lead Thou On.”

Stanza One:

Bridegroom, Thou art mine, Jesus Lamb divine; Saved from sin, to Thee I render Thanks for love so pure and tender, That has made me Thine, Jesus Lamb divine.

Stanza Two:

Thy love’s ardent flame Heals my mortal frame; As Thy kindly eye beholds me, As Thy gentle hand enfolds me; I with joy proclaim Thy love’s ardent flame.

Stanza Three:

Very man and God, Comfort ‘neath the rod: Thou was born in woe to languish, Saving souls from endless anguish By Thy crimson blood Very man and God.

Stanza Four:

Let my faith’s pure light Evermore be bright; Strengthen me each day and hour, By Thy Spirit’s quick’ning power; Keep my soul aright In faith’s holy light.

Stanza Five:

So shall I in Thee Bide eternally, For Thy love with praise supply Thee, And within Thee, magnify Thee, As eternally I shall bide in Thee.

Stanza Six:

David’s Son and Heir, Let Thy love so fair Ever nourish and defend me, For the world doth harm intend me, From their anger spare, David’s Son and Heir.

Stanza Seven:

Prince of Peace once curst, Heavy was Thy thirst To save man from his affliction, When amidst Thy crucifixion, Thou didst cry: “I thirst!” Prince of Peace once curst.

Stanza Eight:

Grant Thy peace, O Lord, Of Thy love outpoured Unto us of Thy confession, Who by name are Thy possession; To Thine own adored, Grant Thy peace, O Lord.

Stanza Nine:

They who bear their cross, Fighting for the cause Of the faith that’s true and living, Shall not perish in their striving, Counting all as loss, As we bear our cross.

Stanza Ten:

I will cling to Thee Who fulfillest me; Grant me nevermore to leave Thee, As in faith I did receive Thee; And thus trustingly I will cling to Thee.

Stanza Eleven:

When my tears must flow, Give me Thine to know, That with balm they may provide me And unto Thy wounds may guide me, That my tears must go And forbear to flow.

Stanza Twelve:

When I shall again Times of joy obtain, Thou wilt share my jubilation, Till I join Thy heav’nly nation And in Thy sweet reign Endless joy obtain.

Stanza Thirteen:

Here through scorn and frown, There the glorious crown; Here in hoping and believing, There in having and perceiving; For the glorious crown Follows scorn and frown.

Stanza Fourteen:

Jesus, dearest Friend, Help me to contend Make me o’er all foes victorious; Through Thy victory so glorious May I comprehend How Thou dost contend.

Stanza Fifteen:

Thou my Joy replete, Sharon’s Rose so sweet; My desire and praise and Treasure, Naught shall move me but Thy pleasure; Sharon’s Rose so sweet, Thou my Joy replete!

Lord of Our Life - LSB 659

This hymn has a great combination of strong tune and strong tune. The text is by Matthaus Appeles von Lowenstern (1594-1648), with translation by Philip Pusey (1799-1855). The tune (ISTE CONFESSOR) is from Antiphoner from the city of Poitiers, published in 1746. ISTE CONFESSOR is one of my favorite “new to me” tunes. I first heard it in 2006 at the AGO National Convention in Chicago and have loved it ever since. It is used 2 other places in LSB: Christ High-Ascended, Now in Glory Seated (LSB 840) and Only-Begotten, Word of God Eternal (LSB 916).

Stanzas One through Three depict the Church Millitant, struggling against evil all around. The first stanza is a plea to God to hear the prayer of His Church: Lord of our life and God of our salvation, Star of our night and hope of ev’ry nation: Hear and receive Your Church’s supplication, Lord God Almighty. The tune helps set the tone of the hymn, as the Church’s prayer ascends to God amid the troubles of this world.

Stanza Two continues the plea: See round Your ark the hungry billows curling; See how Your foes their banners are unfurling And with great spite their fiery darts are hurling, O Lord, preserve us. The foes are surrounding the Church, attacking it with no mercy. Finally, there is nothing left but to cry out: O Lord, preserve us! God is indeed our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Only Christ can save us from the assaults of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.

Stanza Three prays that God would be our light and our shield throughout the darkness and battles of this earthly life. It also contrasts the hordes of hell with the peace that can only come through Christ Jesus: Lord, be our light when worldly darkness veils us; Lord, be our shield when earthly armor fails us; And in the day when hell itself assails us, Grant us Your peace, Lord. It is true that the only peace we have in this world comes from God. But greater still is the peace between God and man, won by Christ on the cross of Calvary, proclaimed to those same hordes of hell, and made known to the disciples on that first Easter morning.

It is because of Christ’s work on the cross that we can sing Stanza Four: Peace in our hearts, where sinful thoughts are raging, Peace in Your Church, our troubled souls assuaging, Peace when the world its endless war is waging, Peace in Your heaven. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come!

The Gifts Christ Freely Gives - LSB 602

This is a straight-forward hymn that tells us exactly what Christ gives, and where He gives them. The hymn text is by Richard Resch (b. 1947), retired Kantor from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, with tune (DENBY) by Charles Dale.

Stanza One gives us an introduction to the entire hymn: The gifts Christ freely gives He gives to you and me To be His Church, His bride, His chosen, saved and free! Saints blest with these rich gifts Are children who proclaim That they were won by Christ And cling to His strong name. As the Bride of Christ, the Church receives great gifts from the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

Stanza Two shows the first place where we receive Christ’s gifts, in Holy Baptism: The gifts flow from the font Where He calls us His own; New life He gives that makes Us His and His alone. Here He forgives our sins With water and His Word; The triune God Himself Gives pow’r to call Him Lord. These are not strange or unknown gifts, but they are the gifts promised in Holy Scripture. Lutherans call them the means of grace, of which Baptism is the first. We receive forgiveness & life at the font, where Christ puts His name on us, marking each of us as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified.

Stanza Three speaks of Holy Absolution, which flows from Baptism and is where we are reminded of the forgiveness won for us by Christ on the cross, delivered by the Pastor, “in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The gifts of grace and peace From absolution flow; The pastor’s words are Christ’s For us to trust and know. Forgiveness that we need Is granted to us there; The Lord of mercy sends Us forth in His blest care. I know it sounds blasphemous to some that the pastor can say, “…I forgive you your sins…” but don’t miss the next part of the liturgy: “…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” That phrase, along with the statement about how he is speaking “in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ” is summed up well by this phrase: The pastor’s words are Christ’s For us to trust and know. If they were merely the pastor’s words there would be no certainty. But Christ has given the Church the authority to forgive or retain sins, as stated in John 20:19-23. So we can know that this forgiveness, first given to us in Holy Baptism, continues to be given through Christ’s Church in Holy Absolution.

Stanza Four speaks of the Word as the Means of Grace that is with us each day in our homes, as well as during the Divine Service. The gifts are there each day The holy Word is read; God’s children listen, hear, Receive, and they are fed. Christ fills them with Himself, Blest words that give them life, Restoring and refreshing Them for this world’s strife.

Stanza Five brings us back to the Sacraments by speaking of The Lord’s Supper. The gifts are in the feast, Gifts far more than we see; Beneath the bread and wine Is food from Calvary. The body and the blood Remove our ev’ry sin; We leave His presence in His peace, renewed again. I especially love the line “Beneath the bread and wine is food from Calvary.” We believe that the same body of the same Christ who hung on the cross of Calvary is bodily present each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This is indeed a mystery and some churches, such as the Roman Catholics, try to explain how this is possible. As Lutherans, we speak as far as the Scriptures speak and no further, so we believe that it is Christ’s True Body and True Blood that we receive, but we do not try to explain how that is possible. The word “sacrament” comes from the Latin sacramentum, which in turn comes from the Greek mysterion, meaning “mystery.” The bodily presence of our Lord is like the Trinity: we believe it to be true because Scripture tells us that it is, but we cannot fully explain it. Martin Luther, when asked how to explain how Jesus’s body and blood can be truly there in the sacrament, replied, “Jesus is good at miracles.” Amen!

Stanza Six is a great doxological stanza that gives praise to the One who gives us such great gifts. Indeed, as the final phrase says, “All thanks and praise for His great love by which we live!” Each breath we take is a gift from God, and He continues to bless us with the gifts given through His Word and Sacraments. Thanks be to God! All glory to the One Who lavishes such love; The triune God in love Assures our life above. His means of grace for us Are gifts He loves to give; All thanks and praise for His Great love by which we live!

All the Earth with Joy Is Sounding - LSB 462

“All the Earth with Joy Is Sounding” (LSB 462) is a great hymn with text by Pastor Stephen Starke and tune (MICHAEL) by Herbert Howells, a great English composer of the 20th century.  Like all of Pastor Starke’s hymn texts this hymn has great imagery and is packed full of rich meaning.

The first stanza shows how the whole earth rejoices at Christ’s resurrection: All the earth with joy is sounding: Christ has risen from the dead!  He, the greater Jonah, bounding From the grace, His three-day bed, Wins the prize: Death’s demise– Songs of triumph fill the skies. Just as Jonah was three days in the belly of the great fish and God made the fish spew him out, so Christ was three days in His tomb, but the grave could not hold Him.  And by Christ’s death and resurrection He has destroyed death so that the grave will not hold any who have faith in Him.

Stanza two continues telling of Christ’s mighty deeds: Christ, the devil’s might unwinding, Leaves behind His borrowed tomb.  Stronger He, the strong man binding, Takes, disarms his house of doom; In the rout Casting out Powers of darkness, sin, and doubt. Christ has not only destroyed death, but He has also destroyed the might of the devil.  Satan is now like a roaring lion that has lost its teeth; he can harm us no longer.

Stanza three: Jesus, author of salvation, Shared in our humanity; Crowned with radiant exaltation, Now He shares His victory!  From His face Shines the grace Meant for all our fallen race. Christ has won the victory and now shares it with us.  We are given the sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead and eternal life with Christ because  He died and rose again! As we say in the Proper Verse during the Easter season: Alleluia! Alleluia! We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  Alleluia! Since Christ gives us His victory, death no longer has dominion over us. We are Christ’s people and nothing can snatch us from His hand.

The hymn concludes with a hymn of praise to our Paschal Lamb: Praise the Lord, His reign commences, Reign of life and liberty– Paschal Lamb, for our offenses, Slain and raised to set us free!  Evermore Bow before Christ, the Lord of Life adore! Thanks be to God that He sent His Son to die in our place and then raised Him up on the third day, proclaiming His victory over all that would assail us.  Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded - LSB 449

This is one of the many great Lenten hymns in Lutheran Service Book. The text is attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), a French abbot who was well-known for his sacred poetry. The hymn comes from a larger poem which addresses various parts of Christ’s body while He is on the cross. What we sing is taken from the last part of the poem. Bernard’s original Latin text was translated into German by Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), one of the greatest Lutheran hymn-writers. The English translation comes from The Lutheran Hymnal. The tune, HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN, was written by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), a German composer and organist. The harmonization for this setting of the hymn is by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), the great Lutheran Kantor and composer who used this hymn tune many times, including 5 times in his St. Matthew Passion.

Stanza One:

O sacred Head, now wounded, With grief and shame weighed down, Now scornfully surrounded With thorns, Thine only crown. O sacred Head, what glory, What bliss, till now was Thine! Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

“He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53: 2b-3) On the cross it appeared that Jesus had failed, for the disciples did not understand His true mission here on earth. Yet in the midst of this seeming defeat, Christ was doing His greatest work, taking the world’s sin upon Him and suffering Hell, a Hell He did not deserve. On this side of the Resurrection we know just what He was doing and so we do indeed take joy in claiming this bleeding Jesus as our own.

Stanza Two:

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered Was all for sinners’ gain; Mine, mine was the transgression, But Thine the deadly pain. Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ‘Tis I deserve Thy place; Look on me with Thy favor, And grant to me Thy grace.

It was your sin, and mine, that nailed Christ to the cross. Here we see the great exchange, Christ taking our unrighteousness and giving us His righteousness. Thanks be to God we do not get what we deserve all because of Christ’s death for us on the cross.

Stanza Three:

What language shall I borrow To thank Thee, dearest Friend, For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? O make me Thine forever! And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, Outlive my love for Thee.

Words fail when we try to thank Jesus for all He has done for us. We simply cling to His promises, such as John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” This promise is for you and for me, and so we thank God for all His loving kindness in sending His Son for us.

Stanza Four:

Be Thou my consolation, My shield, when I must die; Remind me of Thy passion When my last hour draws nigh. Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, Upon Thy cross shall dwell, My heart by faith enfold Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

Christ’s death on the cross means that our sins are forgiven and His resurrection on the third day means that we too will rise on the Last Day and live with Him forever in the New Heavens and the New Earth. Because of all this, we can go confidently to our grave in the same way we go to our bed. We know that when we die we will leave this vale of tears and be with our Savior, who will receive us into His nail-scarred hands. The devil will try to throw doubts and fears at us when we are dying, but we can hold fast to Christ’s promise that where He is, there we will be also. With our eyes fixed on our Crucified and Risen Lord and Savior Jesus, we can indeed die well.

On My Heart Imprint Your Image - LSB 422

This is a a wonderful prayer for any time of the year and especially for the season of Lent, which we will enter on March 6. The text is by Thomas Hansen Kingo (1634-1703), a Danish bishop, poet, and hymn-writer. The tune is by Johann Balthasar König (1691-1758), a German composer from Frankfurt. Let’s look at the hymn line-by-line:

On my heart imprint Your image, Blessed Jesus, King of grace
At your Baptism, you were given Christ’s name. He put His stamp of approval on you and marked you as His own. The image of God, which humanity was given at Creation and which was lost in the Fall, was restored by Christ at the cross, so that all who have Christ’s name have full communion with the Holy Trinity. Christ, the second Adam, came to restore what the first Adam had lost. Your Baptism is God’s promise to you that you are His and nothing can snatch you from His hand.

That life’s riches, cares, and pleasures Never may Your work erase;
In Matthew 13 Jesus tells the parable of the sower. God sends His preachers into the world, sowing the seed of the Gospel far and wide. As the parable tells us, the devil, the world, and our sinful nature don’t want that seed to take root and seek every opportunity to choke out its growth. In this line, we pray that the seed of our faith would not be choked out, but would continue to grow and bear fruit abundantly. The devil and his minions want to take our focus off of Christ and put it anywhere else, for when our eyes are not fixed on Jesus, that is when we run into trouble.

Let the clear inscription be: Jesus, crucified for me,
In 1 Corinthians 2 St. Paul says, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” There is a reason for that: Christ’s death on the cross is the pivotal moment in history and the source of our redemption, for on the cross Jesus paid the punishment for the sins of the whole world. Notice those words “for me,” because those are the words of faith. The devil knows that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, but it is the Christian who can confess that Jesus died for me. Christ’s death for me (and for you) is the focal point of the entire Christian faith and without it there is no hope.

Is my life, my hope’s foundation. And my glory and salvation!
Not only did Christ die on the cross for you, thus appeasing the wrath of God against all of humanity, He rose again on the third day, triumphing over death and the grave. Because Christ lives, you will live also, and because of His resurrection, your resurrection is assured. You are baptized into Christ and because of that, you can know that when your final day arrives and you fall asleep in Jesus, you will go to be with Him to await that great and glorious Day when Christ will return and raise all the dead in Christ to live with Him forever in the New Heavens and the New Earth. In this Lenten hymn we are reminded that although we pass through the valley of the shadow of death all the days of our earthly life, Christ Jesus has won the ultimate victory and invites us to share in that victory through His Word and Sacraments. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Isaiah, Mighty Seer in Days of Old - LSB 960

This hymn, with text and tune by Martin Luther (1483-1546), was written as a Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) for a German setting of the Mass. The text is based primarily on Isaiah 6:1-4, Isaiah’s vision of heaven:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

Luther’s hymn retells the Scripture reading quite closely and can easily be divided into 3 sections. The first sets the scene, the second is the song of the angels, and the third wraps everything up.

Isaiah, mighty seer in days of old, The Lord of all in spirit did behold High on a lofty throne, in splendor bright, With robes that filled the temple courts with light. Above the throne were flaming seraphim; Six wings had they, these messengers of Him. With two they veiled their faces as was right, With two they humbly hid their feet from sight, And with the other two aloft they soared; One to the other called and praised the Lord:

This first section paints a vivid picture of Isaiah’s vision of Heaven. He sees flaming angels with six wings, and the Lord Himself, seated on His throne. What a wondrous sight! And then the angels sing:

Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth! Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth! Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth! His glory fills the heavens and the earth!

I have always wondered just what it must be like to hear angels sing. We won’t know in full until we are with our Lord, but it must be glorious! It is fitting that we sing this same song as we are about to receive our Lord’s Body and Blood for the forgiveness of our sins, as that is the moment when Heaven opens and we receive a foretaste of the great wedding feast of the Lamb which will have no end. What joy awaits us!

The beams and lintels trembled at the cry, And clouds of smoke enwrapped the throne on high.

According to Isaiah, it seems like the song of the angels is not a quiet one if it shakes the heavenly throneroom and then there is also smoke encircling the throne. Sounds like strong organ music and lots of incense to me, but then again, I may be biased. With the whole Church we look forward to that great and glorious day when we too wil join the song of the angels in singing praise to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and gives us His Body and Blood to eat and to drink. Amen, come soon Lord Jesus!

Infant Holy, Infant Lowly - LSB 393

This folk hymn from Poland simply gives us the Christmas story in simple images.

Stanza One:

Infant holy, Infant lowly, For His bed a cattle stall; Oxen lowing, Little knowing Christ the child is Lord of all. Swiftly winging, Angels singing, Bells are ringing, Tidings bringing: Christ the child is Lord of all! Christ the child is Lord of all.

It is such a strange thought: the Christ child, the Lord of all, made His bed with the animals. The animals don’t understand the significance of what is going on, and yet Jesus remains the Lord of all. Then the angels come to tell the great tidings, not to kings and lords, but to the lowliest of the lowly: shepherds.

Stanza Two:

Flocks were sleeping, Shepherds keeping Vigil till the morning new Saw the glory, Heard the story, Tidings of a Gospel true. Thus rejoicing, Free from sorrow, Praises voicing, Greet the morrow: Christ the child was born for you! Christ the child was born for you!

Royal announcements are not made to lowly shepherds. Besides, who would believe them? But God chose the lowly things of this world to shame the proud and so He had His angels announce His Son’s birth to a group of shepherds living out in the fields who were keeping watch over their flocks by night. The angels appeared and their lives were changed. “Christ the child was born for you,” they heard the angels say. And so they couldn’t keep it to themselves, but ran off to tell everyone and worship the Christ child in the lowly manger. The message they received is for you as well: “Christ the child was born for you!”

What Hope! An Eden Prophesied - LSB 342

This hymn is a wonderful poetic retelling of Isaiah 11. Stephen Starke (b. 1955), Pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Amelith, MI is the author. The tune (CONSOLATION) comes from John Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second, which was published in Harrisburg, PA in 1813. CONSOLATION is most well-known for being used with The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns (LSB 348).

Stanza One:

What hope! An Eden prophesied Where tame live with the wild;
The lamb and lion side by side, Led by a little child!

This stanza particularly references Isaiah 11:6, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.” Before the Fall in Eden there was no death, violence, or anything of the sort. We eagerly await that day when peace will once again reign. But who is the One who brings about this day we long for?

Stanza Two:

A shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stem, A branch from David’s line,
A Prince of Peace in Bethlehem: The fruit of God’s design.

Isaiah 11:1: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” The promised One is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace who would restore Paradise again. The King of kings and Lord of lords was born in a lowly manger to redeem His fallen creation.

Stanza Three:

As banner of God’s love unfurled, Christ came to suffer loss,
That by His death a dying world Would rally to the cross.

Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection on the third day is the pivotal event in all of history. Through His death He destroyed the power of sin, death, and the devil, and on the third day He rose again, giving us His life to be our very own. We have this as a sure and certain hope right now. We do still live in this world and have to deal with being in the fallen creation, but we do not lose hope, because we know how the story ends: Jesus wins!

Stanza Four:

Come, Jesus, come, Messiah Lord, Lost Paradise restore;
Lead past the angel’s flaming sword -- Come, open heaven’s door.

We now eagerly await Christ’s second coming where He will proclaim His victory once and for all and do away with the trials and tribulations of this world. As baptized children of God, we know that we will live with Him in the New Heavens and the New Earth, paradise made perfect again. And so we pray with the Apostle John from Revelation 22:20: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee - LSB 607

This is one of the truly great Lutheran chorales. The text and tune are both by Martin Luther (1483-1546) and the translation is by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878), that great translator of German hymn texts. It is based on Psalm 130, but it not simply a metrical paraphrase. Rather, it brings that Psalm home for the Christian and speaks of hope we have in Christ, despite our many sins.

Stanza One:

From depths of woe I cry to Thee, In trial and tribulation; Bend down Thy gracious ear to me, Lord, hear my supplication. If Thou rememberest every sin, Who then could heaven ever win Or stand before Thy presence?

We begin the first stanza in the very pit of despair and in the midst of many trials and tribulations. We plead for mercy to God, knowing we deserve nothing but punishment and the troubles we are currently in. For our sins are great and if God counted every sin against us, there would be no hope and no chance that He would hear and answer our cries.

Stanza Two:

Thy love and grace alone avail To blot out my transgression; The best and holiest deeds must fail To break sin’s dread oppression. Before Thee none can boasting stand, But all must fear Thy strict demand And live alone by mercy.

There is nothing within us that can ever make us clean from sin. Yet God, in His great love and mercy, took pity on us to wash us clean. Any boasting in ourselves would be foolish and would fail, but we live by the mercy of God, who loves us and pities us in our great weakness.

Stanza Three:

Therefore my hope is in the Lord And not in mine own merit; It rests upon his faithful Word To them of contrite spirit That He is merciful and just; This is my comfort and my trust. His help I wait with patience.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God is faithful and always keeps His promises. He alone has never broken one and He will be faithful to you and to me. So we can rest all our hope on His Word, knowing that His help will come at just the right time. This does not mean we will not have times of distress, but we know that God will help and comfort us in the midst of them. He works all things for the good of His children.

Stanza Four:

And though it tarry through the night And till the morning waken, My heart shall never doubt His might Nor count itself forsaken. O Israel, trust in God your Lord. Born of the Spirit and the Word, Now wait for His appearing.

God’s time is not our time and His ways are not our ways, so it may indeed seem like His salvation is a long time in coming. Yet the same Christ who died on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day says at the end of the book of Revelation, “Surely I am coming soon.” The Apostle John’s response, and ours is, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

Stanza Five:

Though great our sins, yet greater still Is God’s abundant favor; His hand of mercy never will Abandon us, nor waver. Our shepherd good and true is He, Who will at last His Israel free From all their sin and sorrow.

Our sins are indeed great, but greater still is God’s favor towards us for the sake of Christ. He will never leave us or forsake us, but is our Good Shepherd who will at last graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in Heaven. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Hope of the World - LSB 690

This hymn, in the Sanctification section of Lutheran Service Book, reminds us that Christ is our one hope and the only hope of all the world. The text is by Georgia Harkness (1891-1974), and American theologian and the first woman to teach in an American seminary. The tune, EIRENE, is by Frances R. Havergal (1836-1879), a British hymn-writer and composer of hymn tunes.

Stanza One:

Hope of the world, Thou Christ of great compassion; Speak to our fearful hearts by conflict rent. Save us, Thy people, from consuming passion, Who by our own false hopes and aims are spent.

This hymn is about the Hope of the World, Jesus. He is given that title by St. Paul in Timothy 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” We also read in Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call -- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” The goal of this hymn, then is to point us to the hope we have in Christ, the one who has great compassion on us to speak to us and heal the wounds caused by placing our trust in false hopes.

Stanza Two:

Hope of the world, God’s gift from highest heaven, Bringing to hungry souls the bread of life, Still let Thy Spirit unto us be given To heal earth’s wounds and end our bitter strife.

Jesus calls himself the “bread of life” many times in John chapter 6. He is our greatest food and feeds us with Himself in the Lord’s Supper. Through this great gift of God we are given forgiveness, life, and salvation as the Holy Spirit works to strengthen our faith and live as His holy people here on Earth.

Stanza Three:

Hope of the world, afoot on dusty highways, Showing to wandering souls the path of light, Walk Thou beside us lest the tempting byways Lure us away from Thee to endless night.

We pray in the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer “And lead us not into temptation.” Not only does Jesus not lead us into temptation, He walks with us through each temptation, for he was tempted in every way we are, yet without sin. Jesus is the light of the world (Jn 8:12) who shows us the path we are to take and gently leads us back when we stray.

Stanza Four:

Hope of the world, who by Thy cross didst save us From death and dark despair, from sin and guilt, We render back the love Thy mercy gave us; Take Thou our lives and use them as Thou wilt.

“Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.” So begins the third stanza of Rock of Ages (LSB 761). All that we have is a gift from God, won for us on the cross of Christ and given to us in Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the preached Word. There is no greater gift we can give back to God than that which He first gave to us, and so we return to Him our thanks and praise. Our very life is a gift from God, and so we present our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1) to Him and in service to our neighbor.

Stanza Five:

Hope of the world, O Christ, o’er death victorious, Who by this sign didst conquer grief and pain, We would be faithful to Thy Gospel glorious. Thou art our Lord! Thou dost forever reign!

The wonderful Good Friday hymn Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle (LSB 454) begins the fourth stanza like this, “Faithful cross, true sign of triumph.” Jesus’s death on the cross was not merely a symbolic act, but is both the means by which he saved us from our sins and the sign we use to remind us of His great victory. We then pray that Christ would make us faithful to the Gospel, sure of the hope we have because of Christ. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Note: The line “Who by this sign didst conquer grief and pain” calls to mind a story of Constantine the Great. He had a vision of a Chi-Rho, which are the first two letters of the Greek word Christos and was an early Christian symbol of Christ. In the vision he also saw Latin words that said “In this sign you will conquer.” Constantine then used the Chi-Rho as his battle symbol.

Christ, the Lord of Hosts, Unshaken - LSB 521

September 29th is the Festival of St. Michael and All Angels, which we will be celebrating on September 30th. The celebration of St. Michael and All Angels reminds us of how the Lord delivered us from the lying accusations of Satan by sending His Son to beat down Satan for us on the cross of Calvary, rising again on the third day to proclaim His victory over Satan’s greatest weapon: death. The tune (FORTUNATUS NEW), by Carl Schalk (b. 1929), is more commonly associated with Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle (LSB 454), a fantastic Holy Week hymn that was originally set to a great Plainchant melody.  The text is by Peter Prange (b. 1972). 

Stanza One:

Christ, the Lord of hosts, unshaken By the devil’s seething rage, Thwarts the plan of Satan’s minions; Wins the strife from age to age; Conquers sin and death forever; Slams them in their steely cage. 

This stanza, like the rest of the hymn, is packed with vivid imagery, especially how Christ slams Satan and his minions in their cage. Christ has not only beaten Satan, but has completely and utterly vanquished him.  There is no escaping or undoing Christ’s victory; it is absolutely certain and final.

Stanza Two:

Michael fought the heavenly battle, Godly angels by his side; Warred against the ancient serpent, Foiled the beast, so full of pride, Cast him earthbound with his angels; Now he prowls, unsatisfied. 

Again, such incredible imagery.  Really, this hymn could be made into a Lord of the Rings style movie.  Not to get too nerdy, but when I read that stanza I see something like one of the giant battles in those films.  However, there is one difference: in this battle, there is no question who will win, because Christ has already defeated the devil and his angels.  The outcome has already been decided.  Satan lost and was kicked out of heaven and now he roams the earth, seeking whom he may devour.  

Stanza Three:

Long on earth the battle rages, Since the serpent’s first deceit; Twisted God’s command to Adam, Made forbidden fruit look sweet.  Then the curse of God was spoken: “You’ll lie crushed beneath His feet!” 

Indeed, the battle has been raging since the Fall into sin.  But God foretold Satan’s demise in the coming of His Son.

Stanza Four:

Jesus came, this word fulfilling, Trampled Satan, death defied; Bore the brunt of our temptation, On the wretched tree He died Yet to life was raised victorious; By His life our life supplied.

Christ came into the world and destroyed Satan’s plans.  The devil planned to rule the world and thought he had won when Christ died on the cross.  But unbeknownst to him, Christ was taking the punishment for all the sins of all mankind upon Himself, dying in our place.  Christ then descended to hell to proclaim His total and complete victory and finally rose from the dead on that first Easter morning.  Because He lives, we too shall live eternally!

Stanza Five:

Swift as lightning falls the tyrant From his heavenly perch on high, As the word of Jesus’ victory Floods the earth and fills the sky.  Wounded by a wound eternal Now his judgment has drawn nigh! 

No more can Satan lay any claim to us who have been bought with Christ’s own blood, washed in the waters of Holy Baptism and given faith to receive the forgiveness of sins. Death is now merely the doorway to eternal life.

Stanza Six:

Jesus, send Your angel legions When the foe would us enslave.  Hold us fast when sin assaults us; Come, then, Lord, Your people save.  Overthrow at last the dragon; Send him to his fiery grave.

Amen! Come soon, Lord Jesus!

Lord, Enthroned in Heavenly Splendor - LSB 534

This is a hymn of praise to Christ, the Paschal Lamb who cleansed our souls from every stain by His death on the cross and resurrection on the third day. The author is George H. Bourne (1840-1925), an Anglican priest. The powerful tune, BRYN CALFARIA, is by William Owen (1813-1893), a Welsh composer.

Stanza One:

Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor, First-begotten from the dead, You alone, our strong defender, Lifting up Your people’s head. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Jesus, true and living bread! Jesus, true and living bread!

Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again! This is the hope we have as Christians, that because Christ died for us, rose for us, and ascended into Heaven for us, we know that His Word is true. He said He will come again and we can be absolutely sure of that. But he has not left us without hope, but has given us His Holy Spirit as a guarantee, and even feeds us with His very Body and Blood each and every Lord’s Day. So He has lifted up our heads in joy and anticipation as we wait for that great and glorious Day of His return.

Stanza Two:

Though the lowliest form now veil You As of old in Bethlehem, here as there Your angels hail You, Branch and flower of Jesse’s stem. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! We in worship join with them; We in worship join with them.

We often think of Christmas as a wonderful, idyllic scene, which it is on the surface. If we go deeper, we see the great depths of humiliation that Christ undertook as He condescended to be born as one of us, a mere human. He humbled Himself to take on our human flesh so that sinful humanity could be redeemed. This all began with our Lord being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. God becoming human is no small thing, but is a monumental event in the history of universe.

Stanza Three:

Paschal Lamb, Your offering, finished Once for all when You were slain, In its fullness undiminished Shall forevermore remain, Alleluia, allleluia, alleluia! Cleansing souls from evey stain; Cleansing souls from every stain.

What Christ began at His incarnation He completed by His death and resurrection. He is the ultimate fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system, the true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. His once for all death has destroyed death so that it can no longer hold us. We have been cleansed by His shed blood so we will stand before the Father on the Last Day without fear or shame.

Stanza Four:

Life-imparting heavenly manna, Stricken rock with streaming side, Heaven and earth with loud hosanna Worship You, the Lamb who died, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Risen, ascended, glorified! Risen, ascended, glorified.

Just as God provided manna and water to His people Israel in the wilderness, Christ feeds His Church, the new Israel, with the heavenly food of His Body and His Blood. We do not have to ask, “Manna? (what is is?)” as the OT Israelites did, for we know exactly what He gives us: Himself. This food is the medicine of immortality and so we worship our crucified, risen, and ascended Lord, who sits in glory at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Entrust Your Days and Burdens - LSB 754

This hymn, by the great Lutheran pastor and hymn-writer Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), speaks of the absolute trust and confidence we have in God because of all He has done for us. The tune (SUFFICIENTIA) is by Stephen R. Johnson, a Lutheran church musician living in Mahopac, NY.

Stanza One:

Entrust your days and burdens To God’s most loving hand; He cares for you while ruling The sky, the sea, the land. For He who guides the tempests Along their thunderous ways Will find for you a pathway And guide you all your days.

God is the Creator of all, from the tiniest atom to the largest galaxy and beyond. That same God cares for you, so what is there to fear? As the Psalmist says, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 125:1-2). God will guide us through the storms of this life unto our eternal home with Him.

Stanza Two:

Rely on God your Savior And find your life secure. Make His work your foundation That your work may endure. No anxious thought, no worry, No self-tormenting care Can win your Father’s favor; His heart is moved by prayer.

Christ is your Redeemer, so with Paul you can “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7). Christ is the one mediator with the Father, interceding on our behalf and for our benefit. Christ is our brother and God is our Father, so we can ask Him with all boldness and confidence as dear children ask their dear father.

Stanza Three:

Take heart, have hope, my spirit, And do not be dismayed; God helps in every trial And makes you unafraid. Await His time with patience Through darkest hours of night Until the sun you hoped for Delights your eager sight.

Christians live as people of hope, knowing that the sure and certain promises of Christ are true. Though we endure the troubles of this world, we know that Christ has defeated the darkness and the the Light of the World is coming soon. Confident in this, we wait with patience for Christ’s return on the Last Day.

Stanza Four:

Leave all to His direction; His wisdom rules for you In ways to rouse your wonder At all His love can do. Soon He, His promise keeping, With wonderworking powers Will banish from your spirit What gave you troubled hours.

St. Peter writes, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7). We need not worry, for Christ fights for us, keeping at bay the powers of evil, no matter how bleak things look. He invites us to give Him our burdens and take His yoke upon us, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Stanza Five:

O blessed heir of heaven You’ll hear the song resound Of endless jubilation When you with life are crowned. In your right hand your maker Will place the victor’s palm, And you will thank Him gladly With heaven’s joyful psalm.

Oh, the wonder and glories of heaven! This is what we long for: to be with the Lord in that place where there will be no sorrow or tears and where Christ will be our light forevermore.

Stanza Six:

Our hands and feet, Lord, strengthen; With joy our spirits bless Until we see the ending Of all our life’s distress. And so throughout our lifetime Keep us within Your care And at our end then bring us To heaven to praise You there.

Confident of the joys of the life to come, we pray that God would strengthen us while we sojourn here on Earth. He will keep us in His care throughout our lives and take us to be with Him. What wonderful promises we have, promises that are sure and certain because of Christ’s death and resurrection for us and for all people.

Rise! To Arms! With Prayer Employ You - LSB 668

This hymn, in the Church Militant section of Lutheran Service Book, is a bold encouragement to Christians to “put on the whole armor of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:11). The text is by Wilhelm Erasmus Arends (1677-1721), a Lutheran Pastor in Crottorf, in the Western part of Germany. The tune, WACHET AUF, was written for the text “Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying.” The composer, Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608), was a German Lutheran pastor who wrote both text and tune for the hymn “Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying” (LSB 516) and “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright) (LSB 395).

Stanza One:

Rise! To arms! With prayer employ you, O Christians, lest the foe destroy you; For Satan has designed your fall. Wield God’s Word, the weapon glorious; Against all foes be thus victorious, For God protects you from them all. Fear not the hordes of hell, Here is Emmanuel. Hail the Savior! The strong foes yield To Christ, our shield, And we, the victors, hold the field.

When our Lord was tempted by Satan He did not use His divine powers, but the Word of God, the “sword of the Spirit,” as St. Paul writes in Ephesians 6. We Christians, then, also use the Word and prayer, which is speaking back to God the promises He’s given us, in our daily fight against the Devil. We need not fear the hordes of hell, for Christ has won the victory.

Stanza Two:

Cast afar this world’s vain pleasure And boldy strive for heavenly treasure. Be steadfast in the Savior’s might. Trust the Lord, who stands beside you, For Jesus from all harm will hide you. By faith you conquer in the fight. Take courage, weary soul! Look forward to the goal! Joy awaits you. The race well run, Your long war won, Your crown shines splendid as the sun.

Christ says in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The stuff of this world will not last, it will decay and turn to dust. But in Christ, we have an eternal treasure that will neither perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for us. So, while we live amidst this world of decay and destruction, we have the sure and certain hope that the best is yet to come because of Jesus.

Stanza Three:

Wisely fight, for time is fleeting; the hours of grace are fast retreating; Short, short is this our earthly way. When the Lord the dead will waken And sinners all by ear are shaken, The saints with joy will greet that day. Praise God, our triumph’s sure. We need not long endure Scorn and trial. Our Savior King His own will bring To that great glory which we sing.

Christ will come again soon! We don’t know when, but we wait with eager expectation for that great and glorious day. “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). We have such great promises from the Lord and we know that they are certain and sure in Christ. “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raise imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53) Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!