Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Danish: Den yndigste Rose er funden
Icelandic: Hin fegursta rósin er fundin
Norwegian: Den yndigste rose er funnet
Song of Solomon 2:1
Text: Hans Adolph Brorson (1694-1764) Tune: Joseph Klug (1500-1552)
1. Now found is the fairest of roses
In briars and thorns, it reposes,
My Jesus, a branch newly showing,
A rose among sinners is growing.
2. Since first we were exiled from Eden,
And lost God’s own likeness by sinning,
The world has been suff’ring in terror,
And we have been wand’ring in error.
3. But God promised us a great favor,
And planted a Rose, Christ our Savior,
Who now blossoms forth in great wonder
Good news for those broken asunder.
4. With hymns and songs gladly now voicing,
The earth should break forth in rejoicing,
But many have not comprehended
The Rose to the world has descended.
5. O sinners, in brambles and briars,
Corrupted by your stubborn errors,
Why are you so proud in your spirit
And trust in your own feeble merit?
6. O come seek the places most lowly
And weep before Jesus the Holy,
Receive all the gifts that he offers,
This Rose planted here among briars.
7. My Jesus will always be for me,
This rose is my jewel and my glory,
Forever my keepsake and treasure,
It fills me with joy and with pleasure.
8. The world may take all my possessions,
Its thorns teach me terrible lessons,
My heart may be broken and tender,
This Rose I will never surrender!
MEDITATION In 1989 when my niece was ten, she accompanied me on a trip to Norway and Denmark. We stopped in Ribe, Denmark, where Brorson had been a bishop from 1739-1764. Walking around the cathedral, she observed his pictures and statues. Later, as we were shopping in a used book store, I heard her shout, "Gracia, here is your guy!" A famous 19th etching of Brorson in his study looking out through a rose. We bought it, in a badly damaged frame, and got it back to Minnesota. Now it is beautifully framed and hanging in my apartment where I see it many times a day. Now found is the fairest of roses! Brorson's most poetic hymn text, I think.
The image of Christ or Mary as a rose goes far back in the tradition of the church. It is based on an image from the Song of Solomon 2:1, "I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys."
Hans Adolph Brorson, known among English speaking Lutherans for two hymns, “Behold a Host” and “Thy Little Ones dear Lord are We,” is considered by Danes to be the poet of Christmas. Born on the heaths of Jutland in Randerup where his father was pastor, he grew up amid roses in the ditches and around the farm where he lived.
The rose is probably the most beloved flower in the West. Its beauty, and scent, all transport us. One problem, however, they are among the more painful flowers to tend. The thorns on the rose stem can hurt, even draw blood.
A lesson about life. Jesus has come to grow in the midst of thorns. To be incarnate meant that he experienced all the trials and troubles of our lives. He was not untouched by sorrow, in fact, it was our thorniness that ultimately killed him. To see him on the cross, crowned with thorns, on a crude rough tree, is to see him as a rose amid thorns. From him comes life, and ultimately, life without the thorns. That is what heaven will be.
In Denmark, the hymn is sometimes sung at funerals. Some think it strange that a Christmas hymn would be one that the family would request. But it describes the life of all of us, living "in brambles and briars." Brorson chose this tune by Klug, one of Luther's contemporaries, which is a bit melancholy, to make the image of the rose richer. He wanted the song to speak the truth about the Christian life. Life is difficult and at the same time made beautiful by Christ’s presence among us. Now during our enforced isolation and slightly melancholic time, we might look, as Brorson does in the etching, at the rose, the most fair and beautiful of all, giving us fragrances of salvation.
Brorson became a pastor in Tønder, Denmark, a wealthy lace making center in its time. Christmas festivities were something of a celebration of the flesh which makes a kind of sense--God became flesh, but.... Drink flowed freely and all of the joy and sorrow it caused made the festival less about Christ than about hedonistic pleasure. As a young pastor to the Danish members of the mixed German/Danish city, Brorson wrote several Christmas hymns to bring Christ back into Christmas. These were the first of his hymns and amazingly several of them have remained popular. One cannot have Christmas in the Nordic countries without singing at least three or four of them which we will get to. These were published in a small volume and later included in a book of hymns he called A Rare Treasury of Faith, published in 1739. I think this is his most beautiful as do many Danes. It was included in the Danish Culture Canon. The Danish String Quartet has a gorgeous setting of it on their Last Leaf CD, but they must have had copyright problems with it so it is not on YouTube.
Stig Rossen Sings
Icelandic version Hallgrimur Church Mottet choir
Icelandic choir from Reykjavik singing a jazz version of a slightly different tune
Pile House Records
Engelskyts Anne Lise Berntsen/a Norwegian folk version of the tune
Ingolf Olsen/ Danish soloist with lute, probably the way Brorson played it https://youtu.be/LhBgwqyHnag
O Jul med din Glede
1. O Christmas, you come with your joy and delight,
We wish you the happiest welcome!
We greet you with joy on this happiest night
And bid you a thousand times welcome! R/Now everyone clap your hand!
Sing out with joy and glee!
For we are glad, yes, we are glad,
We dance around in circles and curtsey, and bow down.
2. O Wisemen, who followed the star from the east
We know all the wonder you follow,
For we would go with you in wonder and haste,
And worship the one whom you hallow!
3. So come, let us dance, round and round, hand in hand,
O hurry, let's all dance together!
Love knits us together in one happy band,
We promise to love one another!
Gustava Kielland (1800-1889) was a pastor's wife in Vang, Norway. She wrote this Christmas hymn. She is remembered for her founding of a Women's Missionary group in 1844 to support Bishop Schreuder's mission to the KwaZulu. Many women in Norwegian American circles knew of her, and some named their circles for her. Dance around the tree to this!
NRK production https://youtu.be/OsH0NuXllaA