From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

From Heaven Above to Earth I Come was written by Martin Luther in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. This song, fifteen verses long, is one packed full of the joy of the Season. The Advent Season, and the Christmas Season. We are, after all, Advent People.

It starts with the angel’s joyful announcement to the shepherds of Christ’s birth. The first five verses detail that announcement. Each verse gives special attention to different points to the truth of His Advent: a heavenly being, an angel, was sent to herald His coming; a child, born of a virgin, is come to be the joy of all mankind; this child, is in actuality the Child, the Son of God, come to free all from sin; this Child will give gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, that we may share in the glory of God, having been restored to Him; the signs that you will recognize Him are the swaddling clothes and manger, and where He lies, also lies the Maker of all things.

Verses six and seven are the shepherd’s response, and our response. How glad we are! How joyfully we go to his manger-cradle. When we see Him and see His love and salvation, we tell others: come and see!

After this, in verses eight through twelve, the words change from a telling of the story to a prayer to the God of whom it speaks. Welcome, noble Guest! Even though You created all, You choose such a humble place for Your birth. Even so, if the whole world was greater and lovelier and better than it is, it would still not be good enough to host You. Instead of comfort and luxury, You chose discomfort for us, that we may be comforted; the things the world values are worthless before You.

In verses thirteen and fourteen, the prayer moves from exalting the new-born Savior to a more personal, quiet prayer.

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child, 
Prepare a bed, soft, undefiled,
A quiet chamber set apart
For You to dwell within my heart.

Lord of all, my heart can do nothing but leap for joy, and I cannot keep silent. I sing with the angels:
Glory to God in highest heav’n,
Who unto us His Son has giv’n!
While angels sing with pious mirth
A glad new year to all the earth.
And I suspect that “new year” has more to do with an age of grace and mercy ushered in by Christ’s coming than with champagne and parties and midnight.
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