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.
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