Alone, while others murdered lay, In safety Christ is borne away The HYMN OF THE DAY, “Sweet Flowerets of the Martyr Band” (969) recalls the Holy Innocents, the infant boys of Bethlehem killed as Herod attempted to eliminate the infant Jesus. This account is part of the Holy Gospel for the Second Sunday after Christmas. This hymn also serves as the hymn of the day for December 28, the feast day which commemorates the Holy Innocents.
This hymn is from a larger work by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413) known as the Cathemerinon, a series of twelve hymns for various hours of the day. (An English version of this work can be found here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/14959/14959-h/14959-h.htm) “These were among the most widely read devotional books in the Middle Ages; centos from them were used extensively in early breviaries and hymns” (Fred Precht, Lutheran Worship: Hymnal Companion). Prudentius was born in Spain, and later moved to Rome. Another work of his is the Peristephanon, a collection of poems honoring the martyrs of Spain, Rome, and Africa.
Today’s hymn is lines 125-136 of the twelfth poem titled “Hymnus Epiphaniae.” The English translation is by Henry W. Baker (1821-1877) from Hymns Ancient and Modern (1875). The introduction is by Christopher S. Ahlman (b. 1979), kantor at Memorial—Houston.
Christ has done away with sadness! The ENTRANCE HYMN, “O Rejoice, Ye Christians Loudly” (897) was written by Christian Keimann (1607-1662) around 1646 for use in a children’s Christmas service in Zittau. Keimann served his entire career as rector at the Gymnasium in Zittau, where he produced textbooks in arithmetic, logic, rhetoric, Latin, and Greek. His hymns and poetry served to teach his students the Word of God.
The tune is by Andreas Hammerschmidt (1611-1675) for the text, which originally included the twelve-fold Alleluia antiphon sung before and after the hymn. Hammerschmidt served as organist in Wiesenstein, Freiberg, and finally St. John’s in Zittau, where he collaborated to write music for numerous of Keimann’s texts. Though the alleluias are not included in our current hymnal, they were included in Lutheran Worship (1982), and are sung today by the choir.
Therefore, all Christendom, rejoice, And sing His praise with endless voice. Alleluia! The HYMN TO DEPART, “We Praise You, Jesus, at Your Birth” (382) is by Martin Luther (1483-1546). This is an example of Luther expanding an existing hymn. An existing German hymn with manuscripts dating to 1370 was sung on Christmas in response to the sequence “Grates nunc omnes.” This hymn was of a genre known as “Leisen hymns” because they ended with the refrain “Kyrie eleison,” which in our hymnal has been changed to “Alleluia.”
Written in 1523, it is part of Luther’s greatest production of hymns. 24 of Luther’s hymns were written in 1523-1524 as Luther sought to provide hymns for worship that could instruct people in the Christian faith rediscovered in the Reformation. This beautiful hymn sings of the mystery of the Incarnation: God enters earthly time. Mary’s lullaby calms the Lord Most High. God’s Son leaves His throne and lies in a manger. He does this for our Salvation: to bring us to be blessed heirs in heaven’s courts, rich in heavenly ways. Granting love through His own Son!