From Heaven above to Earth I Come
by David Dahl
From Heaven above to Earth I Come (LBW #51)
From Heaven above to earth I come,
To bear good news to every home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing.
To you, this night, is born a Child
Of Mary, chosen mother mild;
This tender Child of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all your earth.
’Tis Christ our God, who far on high
Had heard your sad and bitter cry;
Himself will your Salvation be,
Himself from sin will make you free.
He brings those blessings long ago
Prepared by God for all below;
That in His heavenly kingdom blest
You may with us forever rest.
These are the tokens ye shall mark,
The swaddling clothes and manger dark;
There shall ye find the young Child laid,
By Whom the heavens and earth were made.
Now let us all, with gladsome cheer,
Follow the shepherds, and draw near
To see this wondrous Gift of God,
Who hath His own dear Son bestowed.
Give heed, my heart, lift up thine eyes!
What is it in yon manger lies?
Who is this Child, so young and fair?
The blessèd Christ Child lieth there!
Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through Whom e’en wicked men are blest!
Thou com’st to share our misery,
What can we render, Lord, to Thee!
Ah, Lord, who hast created all,
How hast Thou made Thee weak and small,
To lie upon the coarse dry grass,
The food of humble ox and ass.
Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
She yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for Thee.
For velvets soft and silken stuff
Thou hast but hay and straw so rough,
Whereon Thou King, so rich and great,
As ’twere Thy heaven, art throned in state.
Thus hath it pleased Thee to make plain
The truth to us, poor fools and vain,
That this world’s honor, wealth and might
Are naught and worthless in Thy sight.
Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Here in my poor heart’s inmost shrine,
That I may evermore be Thine.
My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep,
I too must sing, with joyful tongue,
That sweetest ancient cradle song.
Glory to God in highest Heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given,
While angels sing, with pious mirth,
A glad New Year to all the earth.
I cherish this time of year because of the depth and variety of music. Music paints pictures with sounds and words that form an entire experience. Martin Luther said, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” Luther lived those words composing numerous songs and hymns . . . and Christmas carols.
Luther wrote a true Christmas gem: “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” (Green LBW #51). Like a good country singer, Luther wanted to share the whole account of God’s love made real in Christ. So Martin wrote it with fifteen stanzas.
Luther began, as he had with some of his other hymns – with a popular tune from a singing game. The girls would form a circle around a young man. Each of these girls would be wearing or holding a garland. The game was to see how many garlands this young man could collect by stumping them with a riddle. He would begin by singing his “garland song”
Good news from far abroad I bring
Glad tidings for you all I sing
I bring so much you’d like to know,
Much more than I shall tell you though.
Then he would tell his riddle to one of the girls in the circle. If she could not solve the riddle she had to give him her wreath or garland. Luther used this fun tune to unpack a different riddle: “How does God rescue humanity?” Note the similarities of the first verse to the “Garland song” above.
From heaven above to earth I come
To bear good news to ev’ry home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing
The first of five stanzas of the the above carol paint angel’s telling of the Word of God becoming flesh in Jesus’ birth. The next verses continue with a generous invitation to join with the shepherds – those first to see baby Jesus – in what this means for the whole world. The Savior of the human race has come!
Luther originally wrote this carol for his then 5-year-old son, Hans. Luther sang it for their family Christmas celebration. Four years later, the song caught on being published in a hymnbook in 1535.
I close with my own invitation to really drink in the carols of this season. May you experience the great joy of the good news and purpose God continues to work through JESUS, the Word made Flesh, the Savior of the world!
Happy New Year and Keep and Live the Faith!
Pr. Dave Dahl
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