Sunday, November 27, 2022

Advent Hymns Are the Best

I clicked on a list of the best Advent hymns and that list included only Christmas carols and a few old Christmas hymns.  The reality is that the world does not seem to know or care much about Advent.  This is surely shown by the fact that, outside of Lutheranism, few can even name an Advent hymn.  How sad!  Advent hymns are the best!  I will admit to a certain fondness for the Scandinavian texts and tunes of Advent -- perhaps the long dark winter caused them to produce some of the brightest and best of the poets and melodies of the entire church year.  Who could be said in the dark of winter while singing "Rejoice, Rejoice Believers?" 

Many years ago a follower of this blog who converted to Orthodoxy say that he missed the loss of Advent and the beautiful Lutheran Advent hymns most of all.  While I am not sure I would have put it quite like that, I get it.  In his own words:   What I miss most about Lutheranism are the Advent hymns, esp. Wachtet auf [Wake Awake, for Night Is Flying], Macht hoch die Tuer [Lift Up Your Heads or Fling Wide the Gates], and Nun kommt der Heiden Heiland {Savior of the Nations, Come] (among others) and a magnificent pipe organ to sing them with.

Let me add to his list of those wonderful Advent hymns:

Once He Came in Blessing
O Lord, How Shall I Meet Thee
O Bride of Christ, Rejoice
The Night Will Soon Be Ending
Prepare the Royal Highway
On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry
When All the World Was Cursed
Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People
Come, Thou Precious Ransom, Come
Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord
Arise, O Christian People
O Savior, Rend the Heavens' Wide
Rejoice, Rejoice Believers and Let Your Lights Appear

While the world is singing “You better watch out!  You better not cry. You better not doubt, I’m telling you why…”  we are singing "O Lord, How Shall I Meet You."

O Lord, how shall I meet You,

    How welcome You aright?
Your people long to greet You,
    My hope, my heart’s delight!
O kindle, Lord most holy,
    Your lamp within my breast
To do in spirit lowly
    All that may please You best.
Your Zion strews before You
    Green boughs and fairest palms;
And I too will adore You
    With joyous songs and psalms.
My heart shall bloom forever
    For You with praises new
And from Your name shall never
    Withhold the honor due.
I lay in fetters, groaning;
    You came to set me free.
I stood, my shame bemoaning;
    You came to honor me.
A glorious crown You give me,
    A treasure safe on high
That will not fail or leave me
    As earthly riches fly.
Love caused Your incarnation;
    Love brought You down to me.
Your thirst for my salvation
    Procured my liberty.
Oh, love beyond all telling,
    That led You to embrace
In love, all love excelling,
    Our lost and fallen race.
Sin’s debt, that fearful burden,
    Cannot His love erase;
Your guilt the Lord will pardon
    And cover by His grace.
He comes, for you procuring
    The peace of sin forgiv’n,
His children thus securing
    Eternal life in heav’n.
He comes to judge the nations,
    A terror to His foes,
A light of consolations
    And blessèd hope to those
Who love the Lord’s appearing.
    O glorious Sun, now come,
Send forth Your beams so cheering,
    And guide us safely home.

It is no sacrifice to withhold the Christmas hymns and carols until the Eve or the Nativity of our Lord and its twelve days.  In fact, some of the most noble text and tunes in our hymnal are reserved for one of the shortest seasons of the Church year.  Some of those beloved Christmas carols cannot hold a candle to these mighty Advent texts and tunes!  Have a blessed Advent singing them!

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