John 1:1-18; Luke 2:8-20
Text: Gracia Grindal (1943-). Tune: Amanda Husberg (1940-)
1. God’s glory shone in starry fields
When angels sang that night.
Of good news meant for all the world
That filled the sky with light.
We followed as God’s people had
The cloud of smoke and fire;
We knew God’s tabernacle lay
Beneath the angel choir.
2. With haste we ran to see the one
The angel had proclaimed
And found an ordinary child
There were no clouds or flame.
By faith we knew he was the one,
Though hidden in the flesh,
And so we knelt to worship him
Before his simple creche.
3. We caught a glimpse of glory then
And on the mountain top
When light transfigured Christ our Lord
And made him shine with hope.
And we have glimpsed it now and then
When hid in bread and wine,
He feeds us with the food of life,
And glory round us shines.
4. Lord, as we kneel before your crib
This Christmas help us see
You tabernacle here with us
And in eternity.
In you, God’s glory shines with light,
And heav’n is where you are.
O come, Lord Jesus, dwell with us,
Our Bright and Morning Star.
HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING
Danish: Hør, hvor englesangen toner
Norwegian: Høyr kor englar syng frå sky
Text: Charles Wesley (1707-1787). Tune: Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
1 Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King: Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!" Joyful, all ye nations, rise, Join the triumph of the skies; With th'angelic hosts proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem!" R/Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King"
2 Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord, Late in time behold him come, Offspring of the Virgin's womb: Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th'incarnate Deity, Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel. R/
3 Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in his wings. Mild he lays his glory by, Born that we no more may die, Born to raise us from the earth, Born to give us second birth. R/
It is easy to think as we sing Christmas carols that when we sing the word Glory it is just another word for praise. Over the years as I have been writing these hymns, among other works, my notion of God’s glory continues to grow and overwhelm me. The glory of the Lord on Mount Sinai, Exodus says, was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain which the people could see. When Moses wanted to see his glory, face to face, to protect him, the Lord said, only my backsides. Exodus 33:18-23.
The Israelites knew the Ark of the Covenant contained the glory of the Lord and was dangerous. When it is captured by the Philistines, Eli’s daughter-in-law gives birth and names the child Ichabod, meaning, the Glory of the Lord has departed.
When the angels appear to the shepherds the glory of the Lord shone round them. They naturally were filled with fear. Imagine what that must have been like!
The disciples saw the glory of the Lord during the Transfiguration, but John tells us that where we really see it is in Jesus on the cross. That may seem a bit hidden from us at first. But the idea that God came down as a little baby in order to save us from our sins, submitting to suffering and death for us is a glory we can scarcely understand, but something Paul says in II Corinthians 3:18 that we will now see directly.
Alongside that is the notion that Jesus is the temple, or tabernacle, among us. As you may remember, the tabernacle is where God dwells with the Israelites on their journey through the wilderness. John says that Jesus has come to tabernacle among us so in him we can see the glory of God. John 1:14.
That is the inspiration for my hymn this week. It also appears in the Wesley carol—in it Wesley has us sing with the angels, Glory to the newborn king! a refrain for the entire song. Christ in coming to us according to Wesley “lays his glory by.” I don’t think that means he no longer has it; we cannot see it, in the same way that after Christ’s transfiguration, the disciples do not see Christ's glory as he goes to the cross in great ignominy and shame.
The miracle is that after Jesus ascended and sent his Holy Spirit to be with us, we now are the temple where God dwells. What a story, what a God! Glory to the new born king!
This lovely tune is by Amanda Husberg. Husberg graduated from Concordia Seward Nebraska, and Hunter College. She has lived in Brooklyn for decades, working as an educational director in the day care system of New York City and serving as musician at Saint John the Evangelist Lutheran church. She has been an active composer of church music over the years, writing many hymns that are well known in the hymnals of today, cantatas and other settings of religious texts.
Charles Wesley wrote this beloved Christmas hymn only a year after his conversion. Although there were several more stanzas, these three seem to be what the church has settled on over time. George Whitefield, Wesley’s friend and colleague in evangelism reworked some of the original text. While it could be sung to many tunes, and was at first, it took off after William H. Cummings (1831-1915), an admirer of Felix Mendelssohn, the great genius of classical music in the first half of the 19th century, reworked one of the tunes from Mendelssohn's Festgesang of 1840 which celebrated the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg. Mendelsssohn had said the tune would never work for spiritual words, but Cummings made it work with the Wesley text. It was printed in Hymns: Ancient and Modern in 1861 and has been a staple Christmas carol ever since. Mendelssohn, a child prodigy, established the Leipzig Music Conservatory of Music in 1843, rediscovered Bach, especially his St. Matthew Passion, and was himself a prodigious composer, with symphonies, oratorios, piano works, and many other compositions to his credit. His early death deprived us of much more music.
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LINKS The Mormon Tablernacle Choir https://youtu.be/SFjMPaOBzXc
Live at the Helix/Dublin https://youtu.be/Xw38pGhPXIk
Keith and Kristyn Getty, contemporary https://youtu.be/PJlwMcjYTRw
Psalmisterne Danish jazz version https://youtu.be/puxFYNnLcwc
Some Husberg tunes https://youtu.be/qcidxE6iEXQ
Virtual choir singing Amanda's I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say