He is a servant, I a lord: How great a mystery! The HYMN OF THE DAY, “Let All Together Praise Our God” (389) captures the mystery of the incarnation of God by looking at the paradoxes the Christ child brings. From the Father’s throne in heaven, he becomes poor and is laid alone in a manger (st. 2); He who made heaven and earth hides as a creature (st. 3); He who receives the praise of angels puts on human nature (st. 4); He becomes a servant that we might be lord (st. 5), and opens the kingdom of heaven for us (st. 6).
This marvelous Christmas text is from a collection of hymns for the Gospels of the church year Die Sonntags Euangelia uber das gantze Jar by Nikolaus Herman (1480-1561).
Nikolaus Herman was kantor at the church and Latin school in Joachimsthal, Germany. Working with the pastor, Johann Mathesius, Herman set many points of Christian doctrine in hymns. Herman used his hymns to teach the children in the school and to keep their minds off profane songs sung in society. In addition to writing hymn texts, Herman also wrote music, including the tune for “Let All Together Praise Our God.”
Death is but a slumber The DISTRIBUTION HYMN, “In Peace and Joy I Now Depart” (938) is Martin Luther’s (1483-1546)
hymn on the Nunc Dimittis (Latin: “Now Dismiss”), the “Song of Simeon” (St. Luke 2.29-32).
Luther connects the song of Simeon to our life: Christ, who is our Life, is our Help in every need and finally when we face death. Luther connects the song of Simeon to the lives of all people: He is the Light to Lighten the Gentiles (“Now I know He is my life, My friend when I am dying”) and the Glory of His people Israel (“For Your people Israel, in Him find joy and glory”).
Another hymn of Luther’s, “Now Praise We Christ, the Holy One” (The Lutheran Hymnal 104; insert) is a translation of a fifth-century text, “A solis ortus cardine” by Coelius Sedulius (c. 450). Sedulius likely converted to Christianity later in life, and used his poetic gifts to show unbelievers that Christianity had much to offer. This particular poem has each stanza beginning with the subsequent letter of the alphabet, as illustrated in the picture.
Luther abbreviated twenty-three Latin stanzas to eight stanzas in German. Luther’s fourth stanza was omitted in the translation into The Lutheran Hymnal:
“The holy maid became the abode
And temple of the living God,
And she, who knew not man,was blest
With God’s own Word made manifest.”
Note the sublime mystery of the incarnation described in the fifth stanza. God, the maker and sustainer of all is Himself made low and fed as an infant. The Creator became a creature:
Upon a manger filled with hay,
In poverty content He lay;
With milk was fed the Lord of all,
Who feeds the ravens when they call.
The lessons are Isaiah 11.1–5; Galatians 4.1–7; and St. Luke 2.22–40.
The hymns are 370 What Child is This
389 Let All Together Praise Our God
938 In Peace and Joy I Now Depart
TLH 104 Now Praise We Christ, the Holy One
381 Let Our Gladness Have No End
360 All My Heart Again Rejoices
897 O Rejoice, Ye Christians, Loudly
Prelude: Let All Together Praise Our God – G.F.Kauffmann/D. Buxtehude