Danish: Nu fryde sig, hver Kristen mand
German: Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein
Norwegian: Nå fryd deg, Kristne menighet
Text: Martin Luther (1483-1546) Tune: Nürnberg (1523)
1. Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice, With exultation springing, And with united heart and voice And holy rapture singing, Proclaim the wonders God has done, How His right arm the vict'ry won, What price our ransom cost Him!
2. Fast bound in Satan's chains I lay; Death brooded darkly o'er me. Sin was my torment night and day; In sin my mother bore me. But daily deeper still I fell; My life became a living hell, So firmly sin possessed me.
3. My own good works all came to naught, No grace or merit gaining; Free will against God's judgment fought, Dead to all good remaining. My fears increased till sheer despair Left only death to be my share; The pangs of hell I suffered.
4. But God had seen my wretched state Before the world's foundation, And mindful of His mercies great, He planned for my salvation. He turned to me a father's heart; He did not choose the easy part But gave His dearest treasure.
5. God said to His beloved Son: "It's time to have compassion. Then go, bright jewel of My crown, And bring to all salvation. From sin and sorrow set them free; Slay bitter death for them that they May live with You forever."
6. The Son obeyed His Father's will, Was born of virgin mother; And God's good pleasure to fulfill, He came to be my brother. His royal pow'r disguised He bore; A servant's form, like mine, He wore To lead the devil captive.
7. To me He said: "Stay close to Me, I am your rock and castle. Your ransom I Myself will be; For you I strive and wrestle. For I am yours, and you are Mine, And where I am you may remain; The foe shall not divide us.
8. "Though he will shed My precious blood, Me of My life bereaving, All this I suffer for your good; Be steadfast and believing. Life will from death the vict'ry win; My innocence shall bear your sin, And you are blest forever.
9. "Now to My Father I depart, From earth to heav'n ascending, And, heav'nly wisdom to impart, The Holy Spirit sending; In trouble He will comfort you And teach you always to be true And into truth shall guide you.
10. "What I on earth have done and taught Guide all your life and teaching; So shall the kingdom's work be wrought And honored in your preaching. But watch lest foes with base alloy The heav'nly treasure should destroy; This final word I leave you." Tr. Composite
MEDITATION (more on Luther for Reformation Day!) It took an entire day. The LBW text committee, twelve of us from the three cooperating synods (ALC, LCA, LCMS) , slaving over a translation of this hymn. We were sitting in the Presidents’ meeting room of the Missouri Synod in St. Louis, MO. This was one we had to get right. We needed to update it and make it a better translation. Not only did the English have to be felicitous, it had to be a correct translation of the German. This is hard. But also a good experience. The work always gets better when you have fierce critics. I would have been happy to let some slightly incorrect language go, for the sake of a more poetic sound, but was not allowed to. Finally we got something acceptable to us all.
The reason it had to be right was that this is one of the central hymns of Luther. If you are longing for a good sermon, here are three! One from Luther to us, one from God the Father to the Son, and one from the Son to his Father and us. Scholars consider it the first of the hymns Luther wrote. Just prior to this he had written a ballad that told the stories of two of his students who had been martyred for the cause of the Gospel. He had written it as a poem something like a balladeer would write to sing the news to the people of the town, gathered together in the town square to hear him.
This hymn uses those conventions. But as it always true, when you go back to restore something, you usually come out with something new. This hymn is a sermon. Like the town crier, he is bringing the good news to the people. It is not a song of praise addressed to God: it is addressed to the congregation. So now the congregation can preach to each other in their hymns.
This hymn could be used today by separating it into three parts. Stanzas 1-4 could be sung as a beginning, explaining the singer’s sense of sin and guilt and need for salvation. Then stanza 5-6 could be sung before the reading of Scripture, for it is God preaching to the Son, telling him what his mission is. And then 7-10, before the sermon, or as the sermon, when the Son preaches. It is a rich hymn. You could rarely get a congregation now to sing all ten stanzas while standing. Or even sitting. But breaking it up might be a good move.
In any event, it deserves singing now and then. A guitar (lute) and recorder would be as appropriate as an organ.
Read the hymn for your meditation. Let it soak in. The last stanza is the Great Commission that Jesus left us with—the command to go to all the world with his Gospel, preaching and teaching it, no matter who will oppose you. Good words for today. Amen.
HYMN INFO The hymn was written maybe some time before 1523. It is Luther's first hymn text. The tune may have come from Nürnberg but creditable scholars think Luther may well have used a tune and made it his own because it has some of what Ulrich S. Leupold calls Luther’s "exuberant sounds." It appeared in print first in 1524 in the Achtliederbuch.
LINKS Concordia Publishing House version https://youtu.be/ZJF3xuytmFw
Steinheim an der Murr church choir https://youtu.be/_TBH5WtcboY
St. Lorenz church Nürnberg, Reformation Jubilee https://youtu.be/xaMcl434iYQ
Athesinus Consort Berlin https://youtu.be/lLKhabdk6Ow
Danish Children's Choir/new tune https://youtu.be/G6w6vBGnOvE
Norwegian Pastor Wang's Jazz version
Bach’s Chorale Prelude BWV 734 Vikingur Ólafsson piano https://youtu.be/s5L8GuEJlIU
If you are longing for "A Mighty Fortress," Bach's Cantata is here
John Gardiner/Bach Cantata 80