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Thursday, December 18, 2008 

Why Would You Sing That Hymn?

One more post on why I love the hymnody of Advent.

One of the reasons I love the hymnody of Advent is that hymns are so confessional. What do I mean when I say this? A confession of faith in hymnody is nothing more than repeating back, in a musical setting, the Gospel which God has given us in Scripture.

Our Gospel reading for Sunday was read from the first chapter of Saint John’s Gospel beginning with the sixth verse;

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”
He said: “I am‘ The voice of one crying in the wilderness:“ Make straight the way of the LORD,”’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”
These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.


After our Gospel reading we sang the Latin hymn Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding; found on page 345 in the Lutheran Service Book;

Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding!"
Christ is near," we hear it say."
Cast away the works of darkness,
All you children of the day!"

Startled at the solemn warning,
Let the earthbound soul arise;
Christ, its sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

See, the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heav'n.
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all, to be forgiv'n.

So, when next he comes in glory
And the world is wrapped in fear,
He will shield us with his mercy
And with words of love draw near.

Honor, glory, might, dominion
To the Father and the Son
With the everliving Spirit
While eternal ages run!

As John prepares Israel for the coming (which is what Advent means, a coming) of the Messiah first promised back in the third chapter of Genesis we prepare for Christ’s return, the parousia or second advent. The hymn could have certainly been sung before the first advent and it indeed a joy to sing it before the second. As John announced the coming of Jesus to all who would hear so do we now in our sung confession with this great Advent hymn.

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
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