HYMN 257 When He Cometh, When He Cometh
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Swedish: När han kommer, när han kommer.
Text: William Orcutt Cushing (1823-1903). Tune: George Friedrich Root (1820-1895)
1. When he cometh, when he cometh To make up his jewels, All his jewels, precious jewels, His loved and his own. R/Like the stars of the morning, His bright crown adorning, They shall shine in their beauty, Bright gems for his crown.
2. He will gather, he will gather The gems for his kingdom, All the pure ones, all the bright ones, His loved and his own. R/
3. Little children, little children Who love their Redeemer, Are the jewels, precious jewels, His loved and his own. R/
"Like the stars of the morning, His bright crown adorning..." My good friend Pastor Stephanie Frey recalled for me once the Advent festivities at The Lutheran Children’s Home in Waverly, Iowa, (now Bremwood) where her parents were houseparents. Every Advent they put on a celebration for the children. The dining room would be decorated with fresh pine boughs hanging from the ceiling and around the room, with Christmas lights and candles. The children, houseparents and others, would gather in the hall outside the double doors, waiting. Then someone would open them from the inside and they would process into the room which was glowing with candlelight. As they came in they sang this hymn or another. A magical time, which she will never forget. The hymn brings all those images back.
The tune and text are perfect for children. The images are from Malachi 3:17, “And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels....”
The hymn is very good news to everyone who sings the hymn, especially children. With its repetitions, it is easily memorized and fun to sing. What a wondrous set of images for children to ponder—to be like jewels, like the stars of the morning, in the crown of the Redeemer!
Once again, like many favorites in our canon, this comes from the Sunday School movement. George Root, the composer, was among the more successful in that group. Most of those musicians were connected with the Moody-Sankey revivals and many moved to Chicago to work with Moody and Sankey. Root, a farm boy who showed great musical promise from the beginning, became a force in 19th century popular song. He established a publishing house and printed many books of songs. The company located in Chicago was completely destroyed in the 1871 fire. What he lost would have been worth many millions in today’s money. How he came across this text is not clear, but he was in the same world as Cushing. The text clearly evoked a lovely melody from him.
The Sunday School movement swept across the world, and was eagerly followed in Scandinavia. People like Lina Sandell translated American Sunday School magazine stories and songs for her publisher. We really don't know how many she did or which ones since the songbooks of that time were woefully sparse in their credits. The hymn appeared in Swedish Augustana’s song book, Hemlandssånger, in 1892. It has been in the Lutheran tradition since the Sunday school songbooks started to feature it.
This is so charming, both tune and text, that it has continued to be popular in songbooks—it was published over time in almost 400 books--and persists in hundreds of YouTube performances as you can see.
If you remember it, teach it to your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, if you can. Make it a time for going to the Christmas tree or Advent candle wreath and sing it with them. Enjoy the lights shining like jewels, or stars. Tell them that is what they are like to Jesus. Wonder all around! Seeing their wonder in the lights of the season and wondering at their wonder!
HYMN INFO William Cushing, a native of Hingham, Massachusetts, came to faith in his teenage years. He decided to become a pastor and first served the Christian Church in Searsburg, NY. He served several churches in upstate New York, until he suffered a disease that caused him to lose his voice. Upon realizing he could no longer continue an active ministry, he prayed that God would show him another way to serve. He realized he could write hymn texts—he had already written this one in 1854—and wrote over 300 in the next few years until his death.
Root was also born in Massachusetts. Something of a child prodigy in music, he ended up studying with Lowell Mason, the church musician of the day in America. As he studied with Mason, he also took voice lessons from one of the premier teachers of the day in Boston, George Webb. Root sang in the Bowdoin Methodist church choir. He was persuaded to move to New York City to lead the music at the Mercer Street Church. Suffering exhaustion from all his many activities, he traveled to Paris to learn French and study singing. When he returned, he moved to Chicago where he built a music publishing company. He wrote mostly secular songs, among them the famous, “Just before the Battle Mother,” which many a Civil War soldier sang before meeting his death in the hostilities. After the Chicago Fire he sold his rights to the John Church Co. in Cincinnati where he went on to publish over 70 books of songs and other works, like cantatas. This hymn began appearing in songbooks and hymnals from the mid 1850s until now. It has dropped out of American Lutheran songbooks, maybe, but it is very popular among American evangelicals and in Sweden, especially.
LINKS The Gaither group https://youtu.be/_4tCMwECQhM
Kaoma Chende https://youtu.be/mRwHPiBCloA
The Stockholm Cathedral Choir/with children https://youtu.be/ScAtjmlGAqU
Birgitta Edstrom https://youtu.be/IG-YBUMYnmI
Visby Domkyrka/organ and trumpet jazz https://youtu.be/ZbhbkVOd3Kw
The NCRew--kind of country western https://youtu.be/VPkZlYcpt9k