We are people who are living in the Night…
The leading stories on the evening newscast are depressing. The stats on violence and mass murders confound us. We long for good news. We are tired of the dark. The nights are very long these days…
When I saw the word “Night” I thought of the chorale “Wake, Awake.” Philipp Nicolai, the composer and author, was a pastor during the plague epidemic in Germany in the late 1590s. If ever there were a time of darkness and discouragement, that had to be it! My hymnody textbook recounts a story that there were so many deaths in Nicolai’s city that one day he performed 30 funerals!
In the face of that much death and fear, Nicolai still found a way to speak/sing the promises of his faith. It was as if he said, “yes… things are bad. Get ready for them to improve!” This is one of the hymns that I strongly identify with Advent and the prophetic and hopeful imagery of the Second Advent.
His hymn was later re-harmonized and perfected by J.S. Bach into the chorale many of us church musicians know well. (For those of you playing at home, it’s BMV 140)…
So sing on! The Night is flying… the Light will come!
“Wachet auf,” ruft uns die Stimme
Der Wächter sehr hoch auf der Zinne,
“Wach auf du Stadt Jerusalem!
Mitternacht heißt diese Stunde!”
Sie rufen uns mit hellem Munde:
“Wo seid ihr klugen Jungfrauen?
Wohlauf, der Bräutigam kommt,
Steht auf, die Lampen nehmt!
Macht euch bereit zur Hochzeitsfreud;
Ihr müsset ihm entgegengehen!”
Wake, awake, for night is flying:
The watchmen on the heights are crying,
Awake, Jerusalem, arise!
Midnight’s solemn hour is tolling,
His chariot wheels are nearer rolling,
He comes; prepare, ye virgins wise.
Rise up, with willing feet,
Go forth, the Bridegroom meet:
Bear through the night your well-trimmed light,
Speed forth to join the marriage rite.
Care to play along? The list is found here…