top of page

HYMN 268 Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers/Santa Lucia

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

German: Ermuntert euch, ihr Frommen,

Norwegian: I Jomfruer, I kloge,

Swedish: Haf trones lampa färdig

Santa Lucia at Mindekirken some years ago

Text: Laurentius Laurenti (1660-1722) Tune: Swedish Folk

1. Rejoice, rejoice, believers, And let your lights appear! The evening is advancing, And darker night is near. The Bridegroom is arising And soon he will draw nigh; Up, watch in expectation! At midnight comes the cry.

2. See that your lamps are burning, Replenish them with oil; And wait for your salvation, The end of earthly toil. The watchers on the mountain Proclaim the Bridegroom near; Meet him as he approaches, With alleluias clear.

3. You saints, who here in patience Your cross and suff'rings bore, Shall live and reign forever, When sorrow is no more: Around the throne of glory The Lamb you shall behold, In triumph cast before him Your alleluias clear.

4. Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear; Arise, O Sun so longed for, Above the darkened sphere. With hearts and hands uplifted, We plead, O Lord, to see The day of earth's redemption That sets your people free! Tr. Sarah Findlater

MEDITATION As we approach the darkest night of the year, the longing for light becomes more intense. The farther north, the greater. That is probably why the northern Lutheran lands have such wonderful Advent hymns. Their seasonal loss of light—which in many causes SAD—is expressed in their Advent hymns and makes the celebration of Santa Lucia so healing. A beautiful festival which overcomes those feelings with dramatic displays of candles.

The Scriptural basis of this hymn is Matthew 25 and the wise and foolish maidens. It focuses especially on the light that shines from their lamps. At the end, Jesus is described as “the Sun so longed for.” All about light.

Lucia festival Sweden

Santa Lucia's life is also about light. She was a brave young woman who went into the catacombs to feed and help those hiding inside. She wore a crown of candles so that she would have her hands free to carry more supplies to the people waiting inside. Over time, especially as Christianity won over the people in Scandinavia, her day, December 13, in the old Julian calendar, the Winter Solstice, became a festival of light. When the Gregorian calendar was introduced, the 13th was eight days earlier than the solstice. So now Lucia day fills the beginning Christmas celebrations with light.

In the tradition, the oldest girl in the family was to waken early, make coffee and lussebuller, Lucia rolls, delicious saffron buns, and bring them to the family wearing her crown of candles. The celebrations have been popular around the world—Italians, Croatians, Americans, plus the Nordic countries--all have some version of the story and festival. The Danes did not mark it much until 1944 when they officially celebrated it, some say, to remind themselves of the light, in hope that the Nazi occupation would soon be over--which it was.

In whatever way you remember it, the longing for light in our darkness grows stronger as we approach the darkest days. And while we look for the sun to return in the natural world, we can rejoice that in our spiritual world, the light is always here. Jesus came at Christmas to be the Light of the World. No matter how dark things look, the darkness cannot overcome his light. We wait for the world’s redemption, as the hymn has it, to be set free.


Freylinghausen Hymnal frontispiece

This very popular Advent hymn has an accomplished author. Laurenti was born in Husum in Schleswig ten years after the Thirty Years War had concluded. He attended the University of Rostock, an important Hanseatic city on the Baltic, a popular university for Scandinavian Lutheran students. He left there to study in Kiel where he finished his studies. He then became cantor in Bremen where he spent the rest of his life serving there. His hymns are considered to be some of the best of the Pietist era. Freylinghausen included over thirty of his hymns in his massive collection Geist-reiches Gesang-buch (Spiritually Rich Songbook) in 1704, 1715 and finally 1739. This hymnal was published in Halle, the center of the Pietist movement. It became well known throughout Germany, and Lutheran lands where many of its hymns were translated.

The tune has varied. Some sing it to "Valet will ich dir geben," but this Swedish folk tune has come to be associated with it among Lutherans in this country. Augustana’s Hymnal of 1925 used a tune from the Swedish-American songbook, Hemlandssånger of 1892. The text in Hemlandssånger is also about having one’s lamps ready and burning. Someone on the Augustana hymnal committee most likely remembered that connection and thought it a good match Many college Christmas festivals have featured the hymn in their programs.

The Santa Lucia hymn tells her story a bit obliquely, but that is enough in this season when the rest of the songs and music tell the story of the light of the world.


St. Lucia by Niccolò di Segna The dagger is how she was martyred, the lamp is her sign

1. Night's heavy footprints lie

'Round farm and toil

Spirits shall haunt the world

Shadows on soil

In our dark house at night

Rising with candles bright

Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.

2. Night's full of black and gloom

Now hear her swing

Through all our darkened rooms

On her sweet wings

At our door clad in white

Wearing a crown of light

Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.

3. Darkness would fain out flee

From valleys deep

Marvelous words to us

We hear her speak

New day again shall rise

Coming with rosy skies

Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.


St. Olaf Choral Ensembles from the 2010 Christmas programs

Processional at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church on Chicago and 31st in Minneapolis

Lutheran Acapella Choir of Milwaukee

K. Lee Scott Arrangement for Morningstar Music


111 views0 comments


bottom of page