Songs of Ancient DaysThe hymns for our Hymnfest featured songs from our hymnal that pre-date the Lutheran Reformation. The hymns and their authors are noted in after the Scripture references and the devotional notes that follow them. We got to enjoy other hymns besides the ones listed below. These were part of the "sermon" as we walked through the Church Year.
All of these hymns are centuries old. We are separated from its authors and original singers by time, space, and language. Nevertheless, the Church's song and confession are made with a united voice. What a joy to sing with the Church of all ages, praising God and confessing what the church catholic has always taught!
Lesson Genesis 3:8-15
As soon as the world needed a Savior, the Lord promised one.
Satan had come in the form of a serpent and convinced Eve that obeying the Lord's command was not in her best interest. He got her to question God's love. He got her to rebel against God's command. She desired the fruit God had forbidden.
Adam had been given the commandment. He was to proclaim it to his bride. He was to watch over her, to care for her, and to protect her. He stood by and said nothing. He forfeited his place and followed her lead. He rebelled against God's order, and he did not love his bride.
Adam and Eve both ate the fruit God had commanded them not to eat. Sin and death entered the world. Guilt and fear entered Adam's and Eve's hearts. Everything was corrupted. Everything fell under God's curse.
Before Adam and Eve could even ask for God's mercy, God was merciful. He promised to send a Savior to the corrupted world. He would crush the serpent's head. He would suffer the serpent's bite, but he would destroy all the evil that the serpent had brought into the world.
Therefore, mankind has been set free from sin and death by the Savior of the nations. And the Church longs for his coming again so that all creation can finally and forever be free from the infection of sin. We continue to sing the prayer of St. Ambrose; for it is our prayer too.
Hymn 2 Savior of the Nations, Come Ambrose (340-397)
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Lesson John 1:1-14
God sent his Son, his only begotten Son, into the world to be our Savior.
God did not sent a good man. There are no good men; none that are holy.
God himself became man to deliver mankind. He did not change into a man; he became man. He united himself to us and our cause in order to deliver us from sin and death.
Eternal God became man so that man could have eternal life and dwell forever with God.
He is the Seed of the Woman promised back in Eden's Garden. He is born not from Joseph's seed, nor any man's seed. He is not even conceived by man's will. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit as the angel Gabriel told Mary. She who was a virgin, who could not possibly have become pregnant, conceived by God's will and command. And so the virgin conceived and gave birth to God the Son, begotten of the Father from eternity, but born man to save mankind.
And so we join with Prudentius to praise God for his Savior and for our salvation.
Hymn 35 Of the Father's Love Begotten Aurlius Clemens Prudentius (348-c. 413)
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Lesson Matthew 2:1-12
You have been set apart from the world. You are a chosen people and a holy nation, set apart by Christ for salvation, and set apart for Christ to honor him with godly living and loving service. Though you live in the world, you are set apart from it.
Still, like Herod, we are still too enamored with this world, its power, its wealth, and its privilege. We are more concerned about the kingdom of this world and its leaders and officials than we are about the kingdom of God.
King Herod had no interest in a newborn king, even though the newborn King had no interest in Herod's throne or realm. Other royals, however, came on a lengthy and costly journey because they sought to honor one whose kingdom is not of this world, and whose kingdom endures forever.
The world and its leaders shall perish. Your Messiah-King, however, lives and reigns forever. And all who kneel before him, confessing him as the King of kings and Lord of lords, shall live and reign forever.
Hymn 91 The Star Proclaims the King Is Here Coelius Sedulius (5th century)
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Lesson Mark 11:1-10
See! Your king comes to you! He who is David's royal son comes to establish an everlasting kingdom that cannot be overthrown by enemies or death or time.
See! Your king comes to you! The people who greeted him cried out, “Hosanna!” which means, “Save, now!” And that is precisely what Jesus comes to do.
See! Your king comes to you! He comes in humility, because he comes to suffer and die for sinners. By his death he pays for our sins. By his resurrection, Jesus will open up the kingdom of heaven to us.
See! Your king comes to you! He still comes to you in the bread and the wine. The body and blood of Jesus are fed to you to strengthen your faith and to forgive your sins. These are the most holy things in our service, for they are Christ. He comes to you to save, to forgive, and to bless.
And so we let our Hosannas ring with Theodulph of Orleans, and our Redeemer King continues to answer our hymns of praise with his blessed gifts.
Hymn 131 All Glory, Laud, and Honor Theodulph of Orleans (c. 762-821)
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Lesson John 19:16-31
Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a series of hymns, meditating on seven parts of Jesus' body which was nailed to the cross. We are most familiar with the hymn which focuses on Jesus' head.
Bernard would have us consider in the thorn-crowned head and in the pained and pale face of Jesus what he had to endure for us. It is not that a man dies in the tortures of crucifixion. It is that this man dies for us and for our sins. This man is God; and by pondering his death we can barely appreciate the severity of our sins. This is what our guilt has brought upon God the Son. The holy One dies on behalf of the guilty.
Still, Jesus lays down his life willingly. He goes to the cross on a mission—to save sinners. Just as Jesus' death shows the depth of our guilt, so it also shows the depth and the height and the breadth of God's love. This is what God would do to save you so that you would not endure a cursed death or the tortures of hell. God loved the world in this way—he gave his Son; and the Son gave up everything for you.
Therefore, when death comes, we need not fear. Jesus already endured the worst that death can do to us. And he does not forsake us as death comes. He continues to be our Savior, our consolation, and our shield when we must die. And if we die in faith in Jesus, we die well.
Hymn 105 O Sacred Head, Now Wounded Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153)
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Lesson Luke 24:1-12
The dead shall live, because he who died lives!
The grave shall give up its dead, because our buried Lord is risen!
Mankind has been delivered, because our God has become man to deliver mankind!
Hell is vanquished. The devil is crushed. Death is dead. Jesus is risen!
Even creation rejoices that the children of God have been delivered, and creation awaits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed at the Last Judgment.
But the children are delivered, for the grave is empty. Peter marveled at what had happened; for his Lord was risen from the grave. Therefore, not even death can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord; for Jesus is greater than death.
Hell today is vanquished; heaven is won today! This is the Christian faith, which daily celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the Christian faith, which eagerly looks forward to our own resurrection and the life of the world to come.
And so we join with Fortunatus and the centuries' worth of Christians who repeated his hymn of victory: Hell today is vanquished; heaven is won today!
Hymn 163 Welcome, Happy Morning Venantius Fortunatus (c. 530-609)
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Lesson Acts 1:1-11
The Venerable Bede urges you to ponder this: Christ, by a road before untrod, ascends unto the throne of God.
Now the dwelling of God is with man, and the dwelling of man is with God. For, we have a man who has entered into heaven. More than that, this man reigns there over all things! And he lives and reigns there for you; for, he is your brother. He who united himself with us and saved us now lives and reigns for us.
Jesus Christ has not ascended to heave to abandon us. Rather, he is with us always to the very end of the age. For, he sits at the right hand of God the Father. The right hand of God is wherever God is. It is wherever God is to work for our good and for our salvation. Therefore, there is nowhere you can go where Jesus is not. He is with you always.
But he is most specifically here, where his word is preached and where his sacraments are administered. There Jesus is not merely as your omnipotent God, but as your blessed Savior. In the word and sacraments, there Jesus is for you.
For now, we gather in God's house to receive Jesus' blessings. Here, Jesus is veiled in weak things—word, water, bread and wine. But hereafter, Jesus you shall see returning in great majesty. And then Jesus shall take us to where man first ascended by a road untrod—into the presence and eternal glory of God.
Let's join the Venerable Bede and declare our Alleluias for this great Savior and salvation.
Hymn 171 A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing Venerable Bede (673-735)
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Lesson Acts 2:1-21
For centuries, the Lord had told the Church that he would meet with them in one specific place. That place was the tabernacle, later replaced by the temple in Jerusalem. This is where the Lord was pleased to reveal himself in the atoning sacrifices. This is where the Lord made his dwelling among his people.
On the Day of Pentecost, there is an amazing shift. No longer does the Lord dwell in one specific temple. Instead, the Lord takes up his dwelling place in those who hear and believe his word. The words of Jesus have been fulfilled: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23) So the Holy Spirit has come to you. He has taken up residence in you, so that your body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit. God dwells in you and is with you. He makes your heart his place of rest, sets it on fire with his love, and enlightens our minds so that we live and work for the glory of God.
The Holy Spirit makes his dwelling with us so that we, at last, we will enjoy our eternal dwellings with God.
Hymn 178 Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest Rhabanus Maurus (776-856)