Monday, November 30, 2020

281. Sacramental Christmas Hymn

A friend of mine who's in the holy ministry prompted me today to try writing a Advent or Christmastide hymn that specifically locates Jesus' coming in the Means of Grace, with a minor emphasis on urging Christians to attend worship on more than a "Christmas and Easter" basis. Here's a first, feeble attempt toward that. The tune I've selected for it, after not looking at all hard and long, is WÜRZBURG (see below), from a devotional songbook published in 1705 in that city; some may know it as the tune to "Hark! what mean those holy voices." Theo, the author of the tune GRATIA CORONAM for my St. John Passion hymn, advises me that this text would also sing nicely to O DU LIEBE MEINER LIEBE.

Hark! A murmurous vibration
Is become a shout of joy!
Bethlehem brings forth salvation;
God becomes a baby boy.
Shall we key our jubilation
To a tone aught can destroy?
Rather, let our celebration
His abiding gifts employ.

Must we to a far-off manger
Fly in pious fantasy,
Or through sentiments yet stranger
Dandle Jesus on our knee?
In the hour of trial and danger,
How can such our bulwark be?
Christ, our narrow way's arranger,
Comes to us, and only He.

Not in pageant, whether facile
Or that rich with rhythm thrums,
Nor in market's frenzied hassle,
But in lowliness He comes:
Less attuned to royal castle
Than to shanties, huts and slums;
Caring not for gilded tassel,
Deepest need He rather plumbs.

As a child He comes, thus daring
Such susceptability,
All our race's weakness sharing,
Even children to set free.
Therefore hear His voice, declaring
Those He washes, clean to be:
Come, salvation's garments wearing,
All you baptized, big and wee!

As a prophet He comes, aiming
God's good pleasure to increase,
Praying, suffering, proclaiming
That our war with Him must cease.
Now the keys He proffers, naming
Men to speak our sins' release.
Come, therefore, as promised, claiming
Absolution's pledge of peace.

As a priest He comes, displaying
In the presence of the Lord
Recompense for sinners, paying
All God With Us can afford.
Hear Him now, at table saying
What for us is broken, poured;
Taste His love, your failures laying
At His sacramental board.

As a king He comes, receiving
Honor from each trusting heart.
Hear His voice today, believing
What His means of grace impart:
Whether glorying or grieving,
In His gracious gifts take part
Till, His joyful shout perceiving,
To eternal life we start!

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