Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rejoice, Believers!

Advent hymns.

They really only make sense if we are committed to not just Christmas Day itself (the Feast of the Nativity as our only “Christmas”) but to the short season – the 12 days of Christmas. To a season that goes until at least Epiphany Sunday, early in January. With the full calendar we can “afford” to prepare, to ramp up. But when it all comes to a crashing halt on December 26 we may look back at four Sundays and mourn the missed opportunities to sing Christmas songs, hymns and carols.

In my present context, this is where we are. As a pastoral musician I will concede my responsibility to educate, to push the rock uphill, to stand firm and chip away at a good Advent. But as long as the days after December 25 are “something other than Christmas” there will be partial – and probably hollow – victories.

Meanwhile, there are some outstanding Advent hymns to put into peoples’ hands in a College Church hymnal. And the prayer that they will not only get used (I can see to that!) but embraced by the congregation.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers
Rejoice, rejoice, believers,
and let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing,
and darker night is near.
The bridegroom is arising
and soon is drawing nigh.
Up, pray, and watch and wrestle;
at midnight comes the cry.

The watchers on the mountains
proclaim the bridegroom near;
Go forth as he approaches
with alleluias clear.
The marriage feast is waiting;
the gates wide open stand.
Arise, O heirs of glory;
the bridegroom is at hand.

The saints, who here in patience
their cross and sufferings bore,
Shall live and reign forever
when sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory
the Lamb they shall behold;
In triumph cast before him
their diadems of gold.

Our hope and expectation,
O Jesus, now appear;
Arise, O Sun so longed for,
o’er this benighted sphere.
With hearts and hands uplifted,
we plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption
that sets your people free.

Laurentius Laurentii (1660-1722),
trans. Sarah B. Findlater (19th century), alt.
as found in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

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