Sunday, June 24, 2012

Nativity of John the Baptist

The birth of John the Baptist is commemorated in some churches on June 24 (or June 25 this year, to move it away from a Sunday).  Many churches might only mention John during Advent, or perhaps at the Baptism of Jesus, but some additionally mark the day of his martyrdom by beheading (in the famous story of Salome) on August 29.

Today's hymn comes from The Holy Year (1865), a book of hymns by Christopher Wordsworth, delineated for each Sunday of the church year and many saints' days.  Wordsworth wrote eleven stanzas, but I can't imagine a modern congregation singing many more than four.

In the wilderness prepare ye
For our God a way to go,
Ev'ry valley shall be lifted,
Ev'ry hill shall be made low;
Straight shall be the crooked places,
And the rough be level made,
And all flesh shall see the glory
Of the Lord of Hosts displayed.

In his mother's womb exulting
Did the Voice salute the Word,
In the wilderness the Servant
Gladly did proclaim the Lord;
When the Spirit came upon him
Whom the Maker's love did send,
Christ the Savior sent from heaven,
John on earth the Savior's friend.

John the Baptist, our Elijah,
Preached thee in his mother's womb,
In the desert, in the palace,
In the prison's narrow room;
Greater than the holy prophets,
For he did the Christ baptize;
Greater than the holy prophets,
For he did evangelize.

In our hearts thy way preparing,
May we, Christ, thy grace obtain,
Level hills, fill up the valleys,
Crooked straight and rough make plain;
Haste, O haste thy second coming!
May thy everlasting Word
Bloom and flow'r through generations,
And be glorified, O Lord!

Christopher Wordsworth, 1865; alt.
Tune: BEECHER ( D.)
John Zundel, 1870

The familiar tune BEECHER, by John Zundel, was named for Henry Ward Beecher, pastor of Brooklyn's Plymouth Church, where Zundel was organist.  I chose it for this text in honor of Beecher's birthday, which is also today.

P.S. The painting above, John the Baptist Preaching (1733) is by 

Four Years Ago:  Henry Ward Beecher

Three Years Ago: Nativity of John the Baptist

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