Friday, December 13, 2013

#365, in which still is sung in ev'ry tongue the angels' song of glory

#12 "With Wondering Awe" (tune: Laudis Corona, based on Matthew 2:1-11)

Here's another hymn we don't sing as often as the others, and I think that's a real shame. It's a simple tune, and even if you're not familiar with it, you wouldn't have any problems singing it after about thirty seconds. In fact, if you click on that link at the top and listen to it, you'll probably find yourself humming it all day. And you could do worse than that, I think.

This is a Christmas hymn, of course, but it only mentions the Christ child once, and that not even by name ("the wondrous little Stranger"). Instead, the hymn focuses on the magi and the star that led them to Him. It's a different point of view than the shepherds we heard in "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks," and it's made very clear in the first verse, with the words, "And with delight, in peaceful night, they heard the angels singing." The shepherds were terrified to see the angels, probably because they caught them off guard. They probably hadn't heard any of the prophecies foretelling Jesus' birth. They were watching their flocks by night and wouldn't have been expecting heavenly messengers. The magi, however, were. They knew the signs and were watching for them. When they heard the angels' songs (probably not in person, but in their hearts), it didn't frighten them, but brought joy to their hearts.

The third and fourth verses bring us from the Nativity to the present. It's not just an abstract event in the past we sing about, but one that we take part in today.

And still is found, the world around,
The old and hallowed story,
And still is sung in ev'ry tongue
The angels' song of glory.

When we sing this hymn, we join in those songs of glory, and perhaps literally so when we sing the refrain of "hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to his name!" It's the same song the shepherds and magi sang thousands of years ago, and it's the same song we'll sing thousands of years hence. The fourth verse tells us as much; the star of Bethlehem will continue to shine and "shall not cease till holy peace in all the earth is growing."

We're not there yet, clearly, but I imagine every hosanna and every noel we sing brings us incrementally closer.

Previously in this series

#13 Joy to the World
#14 While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

No comments: