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Advent hymns, I

December 6, 2012

hymnal1940AS THE Revd Fleming Rutledge has noted, we in the Church pay little attention to the words of our hymns. We certainly love our hymn tunes, but as far as the text goes, it is taken for granted. Who can recall a sermon devoted to the words of a hymn? All of this is a great pity, for our Hymnal contains as much theological meat as the weightiest divinity-school monograph, and a lot more poetry too. We who write this blog agree with Mrs. Rutledge that, “if I were ever to be a hostage or captive of some sort, it would be the words of the hymns that would sustain me.”

In this season of expectation, therefore, while we await both the birth of our Saviour and his coming again at the last day, we post the hymns of Advent, their texts laid out for digestion, consideration, and contemplation.

Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
Come, testify thy Virgin’s birth:
All lands admire, all times applaud!
Such is the birth that fits a God.

Forth from that chamber goeth he,
That royal home of purity,
A giant in twofold substance one,
Rejoicing now his course to run.

From God the Father he proceeds,
To God the Father back he speeds,
Runs out his course to death and hell,
Returns on God’s high throne to dwell.

O equal to thy Father, thou!
Gird on thy fleshly mantle now,
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
and darkness breathe a newer light
where endless faith shall shine serene
and twilight never intervene.

All laud, eternal Son, to Thee,
whose advent sets Thy people free,
whom, with the Father, we adore,
and Holy Ghost, for evermore. Amen.

TEXT: Ambrose of Milan (340-397), trans. J.M. Neale and others.
TUNE: Puer nobis, L.M. (15th century), adapt. Michael Praetorius, 1609.

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