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.”
Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630) is the composer of today’s choral setting of stanzas 3 and 5 of “Let All Together Praise Our God.” Composing in the Baroque period, Schein is known for being an early musician to bring Italian styles into German musical composition. He was a musician in Weimar and Leipzig, where he directed the Thomanerchor, a post that Bach would hold over a century later.
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”).