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Music for Christmas Eve

He becomes the Lamb that taketh

Sin away and for aye

Full atonement maketh.

   The HYMN OF THE DAY, “All My Heart This Night Rejoices” (The Lutheran Hymnal 77; abbreviated in Lutheran Service Book 360) is by Pastor Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676).  This hymn is an unforgettable blessing in our repertoire for its clear and simple presentation of the purpose of Our Lord’s birth.

One hymnologist provides this outline of the stanzas:

“First a trumpet blast: Christ is born; God’s Champion has appeared as a Bridegroom from His chamber (1-2).  The value of the Incarnation: Is it not love when God gives us the Son of His love (3), the Kingdom of Joy (4), and His fellowship (5)? It is indeed the Lamb of God who bears the sin of the world (6).  Now He places Himself as herald by the cradle of the divine Child (7).  He bids as in St. Matthew 11.28, all men (8), all they that labor (9), all the heavy laden (10), and all the poor (11), to draw near.  Then, in conclusion, he approaches in supplication, as the shepherds and the Wise Men (12-15).  He adores the Child as the Source of life (12), his Lamb of God (13), his Glory (14), and promises to be ever true to Him (15).  It is a glorious series of Christmas thoughts, laid as a garland on the manger at Bethlehem.”

Gerhardt was a faithful Christian pastor, who authored 123 hymns.  Near his grave is written the inscription, “A theologian sifted in Satan’s sieve.”  He endured persecution for holding to true doctrine, and the loss of his wife and four of his five children.  Nevertheless, the suffering he endured enabled him to write hymns steeped in the Word of God that identify with the reality of a Christian’s life in the world.

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