Hymn Summary: Advent 2

LO! HE COMES WITH CLOUDS DESCENDING (LSB 336)

Advent 2 (1 yr)

The brothers John and Charles Wesley saw that, according to Luther, music teaches the faith and imprints it strongly upon the heart. So he did in this hymn. The tune is new to LSB, but not to the text and a more beautiful pairing to the hymn.  The tune does what the text declares.  As the music descends so the text confesses “. . . with clouds descending.” As the congregation and musicians swell so we sing “Swell the triumph of His train, Alleluia . . .”  It is well worth learning if your parish has not yet undertaken the task. 
 
The hymn primarily pictures through song the words of Revelation 1:7: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”   Some slight editing has taken place from Wesley’s original which shows theological difference between the Methodists and Lutherans, “once for favored sinners slain,” now reads “Once for every sinner slain.”


On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist Cry (LSB 344)

Advent 2 (3 yr)
 
In light of the recent horrible attacks in Paris, our hymn brings specific comfort to those who mourn and pray.  Hear it well in the middle of tragedy and death, “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s cry Announces that the Lord is nigh.”   The author Charles Coffin was a theologian, hymnist, and Frenchman who among other things served as Rector at the University of Paris.  
 
With these things on our minds, of particular note, verse four, “Lay on the sick Thy healing hand And make the fallen strong to stand,” but also verse three “We hail Thee as our Savior Lord, Our refuge and our great reward.”  So the Word of God speaks particularly to those who suffer most horrible things, as we together in song call out with the comfort that only Christ Jesus can give.
 
As the Church Year has different rhythms, John the Baptist is a central character during Advent with his preaching of repentance.   He signals the season’s penitential character, and prepares the Church for a time of joy: for some Christmas, for all Christians Christ’s return.  Certainly one result of tragedy all about us, is the encouragement to repent.  “What shall we do?” many wonder.  Our hymn provides the way,  “Then cleansed be every life from sin; Make straight the way for God within, And let us all our hearts prepare For Christ to come and enter there.” (vs. 2)
 
The great Lutheran composer Michael Praetorius’s hand is at work in the tune.  Charles Coffin also is the author of the first hymn in our hymnal (LSB 331) The Advent of our King.


Rev. Adrian N. Sherrill serves Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 


As an extension of LOGIA, LOGIA Online understands itself to be a free conference in the blogosphere. As such, the views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LOGIA’s editorial board or the Luther Academy.

Hymn Summary: Advent 1

Savior of the Nations Come (LSB 332)

First Sunday in Advent – Ad Te Levavi

Savior of the Nations, Come is one of the oldest hymns in the prayer book.  Attributed to Ambrose (b. 340), it is a prayer Christ would come today.  This is not a vain hope as Christ has come from the Father in heaven. The second verse sings it this way “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.”

The first verse of the hymn and then the sixth and the seventh are the petitions of the prayer, asking Christ to come and heal our ills of body and soul, and shine into the world.  That prayer is grounded on the facts contained in verses two through five.  While sung instead of spoken they are quite similar to our creeds.  Consider verse 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.”  Finally it closes with a doxology. 
 
The hymn sets the Advent theme, “Christ has come, is coming, and will come again.” It is particularly rich incarnationally, undeniably setting the tone for the season as a whole, the Time of Christmas, which includes Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.  Luther translated this hymn for the people’s use almost literally.  It was arranged for congregational singing with the tune written by Johann Walter, Luther’s Kantor whose own hymn “The Bridegroom soon will call us” was sung by many on the last Sunday of the Church Year.


Rev. Adrian N. Sherrill serves Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado. 


As an extension of LOGIA, LOGIA Online understands itself to be a free conference in the blogosphere. As such, the views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LOGIA’s editorial board or the Luther Academy

Second Sunday in Advent, 1918

An Advent Sermon from Werner Elert translated Adam Koontz

 Luke 21:25-26

            “There shall be signs in the sun, moon, and stars.”—says the Lord. So far it hasn’t happened yet. Certainly at times a new show takes place in the night sky. There a comet ascends and after a time disappears again. A few months ago a new star in the sky was discovered, but after a few days, it became small again. Or an unusually long drought or long wet period prevails. Or once a great storm on the sea—“the sea and the waves will roar”—yes, all this occurs also in our times. But it has often been so before. Comets have often stood in the sky. And all manner of horrors at sea have disturbed men. In all these and the like, our time does not distinguish itself from other times.

Certainly one thing does apply to our day in a special way: “On Earth people will be afraid, and they shall say”… “And men will die off for fear and for awaiting the things that shall come on the Earth.” There is a monstrous restlessness among our people and seemingly also among all other peoples. One lives in the anticipation of great things. One hopes and fears. One waits.

“But when this begins to happen, look up and lift up your heads, for your salvation draws near.” When what begins? The sky’s activities? They have not changed, so long as the thoughts of men stretch into the past. Therefore we come to the other option: when the angst and restlessness of men and the restless anticipating becomes ever greater—then lift up your eyes. Lift your heads, for your salvation draws near.

And so the appeal is addressed also to us today. Lift up your heads, for your salvation draws near. From this and the following words of the Lord comes an essentially different picture of the imminent end-times from that which most Christians among us maintain. Usually the matter is put forth as if horrible things are the most certain mark of the future coming of Christ, as though one must await a dreadful upheaval in all earthly conditions, indeed in all the conditions of the stars, the heavenly bodies among them, and finally, as though the best preparation were to hide oneself warily at one’s own hearth. Though all these things and opinions have a certain truth to them—this speech of the Lord shows that the matter also has another aspect. From this announcement comes much that is in contrast to this widespread opinion:

  1. The signs of the future coming of Christ shall be not only terrible but also full of hope.
  2. One should fix his eyes not on the ephemeral, but on the everlasting.
  3. One should be not worried, but watchful and worthy.

I.

            One should certainly not overlook that in the proclamations of Jesus the description of events in the sky is by no means the only thing. It says, “He told them a parable, ‘Look at the fig tree, and all the trees—as soon as they leaf out, you look for yourselves and know the summer is near. So also, when you see all this going on, know that the kingdom of God is near.’” Had the Lord thought only of downfall and destruction at his future coming, he would have likened the time of preparation not to the spring but to the autumn. That he likened it to the spring, bright budding and the greening of the trees, so we may definitely expect that the end of time will also mean a bright budding and greening in his kingdom.

Is such budding and blooming something to be perceived in the present? Before the war, we received the reports of our missionaries every year. Who among us read them? Who was at all interested in them?—Yes, there was something of blooming in the kingdom of God to notice, when the heathens pressed in to hear the Gospel. How happy we would be today, if that happened again! But if also in this time some consoling news arrives, in general a monstrous reversal has come. It is autumn there instead of spring, and the young congregations of Christians there are far more like not to a greening fig tree, but to a fading one. The leaves for the most part are fallen. So here the Lord’s condition is not fulfilled.

And in Christianity here at home?—Some believed strongly during the rush to arms in the first months of the war that a rush to arms brought with it the chance to behold a greening fig tree in the area of prayer meetings for the war, of prayer, and of a penitent attitude. Granting there may have been something true in that—today we are in any case farther from a conversion of the entire people than ever. Here also no blooming, but a falling of barren leaves—for that reason we will not hold the horrible things of the present for more important than they actually are. Therefore they are not decisive, says the fact that the trees still are not green.

II.

Not the ephemeral, but the everlasting.

            When many Christians busy themselves much more readily with the outward signs of the coming of Jesus than with the inward signs, it is presumably because above all the ephemeral is more important to them than the everlasting. You remember that the last Sundays of the church year preach the everlasting in ever-new phrases. And out of the prayers of those weeks rings out the tone: “Prepare our minds for the end.” But do not think, fellow-Christians, that that is a special cemetery-mood or autumn-mood that is again finished once happy Advent promises hopes and joys again. The season of Advent also in its way directs its vision to the everlasting.

Proof v. 33, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” That is: away with all thoughts of the temporal, but also with all thoughts and musings on the downfall of the world, etc. It all passes away—what does it matter to you? Think still more on that which will be saved, yes, what then will still be, and then always will rule all life. Those are his words.

The Lord’s words—they are not dead and gone like other people’s words. Some among us can only speak smartly; they give first-rate advice in all political and business affairs. But do not think, fellow-Christians, that such has eternal worth…. That Christ’s words have eternal worth, that is because he himself is an eternal being.

And let us apply these predictions of the Lord to some of his words. “Come unto me…” “The Son of Man—that he should give his life as a ransom for many.” “I am the Good Shepherd—I give them eternal life, and they shall nevermore perish.” These words have validity also in the eternal world, and to that let us turn our attention.

III.

Not anxious, but watchful and worthy.

            From this follows—and that is for us the most important thing—how we should conduct ourselves in these hard times (which should however, as the season of Advent, lose all that is comfortless). First: not anxious. If we were to be anxious, fearful, then certainly it would be never be set there: “Lift up your heads.” So not a sunken head, but an uplifted one. Not fearful, but inwardly free and full of trust in a very strong Helper.

But beside that: watchful, v. 34-36. The day comes like a trap. Not as if someone has an interest in bringing us to a fall. The Lord, who brings it, wants rather the opposite. But he wants to preclude all hypocrisy. Were the preparation of the fulfillment such that no man could anymore doubt it, then the temptation would lie near that many would repent at last out of so-called smartness. What do you think, fellow-Christian? Oh, how many good Christians lean upon the possibility to still repent before the gate is closed and to still be able to come home. It doesn’t work that way with the Lord. The end comes unexpectedly like a trap.

So watchful. And further “worthy.” Oh, of worth among us we cannot speak, still less of worthiness. Namely then, not when this is connected to it: “Worthy to stand before the Son of Man.” Therefore there is only one way out. That is the begging outstretch of the hand to him: Lord, take me as I am. Forgive me my sins, and save me. I cannot. That strikes some among us not as worthy but as unworthy. That we still thereafter must humble ourselves is because the human measure of worthiness is generally invested in hypocrisy. Not with the Lord. And above this: it is not about humility before men but about humility before God. …

Amen.