Sunday, December 15, 2013

Prophet to the Multitudes

John the Baptist always gets a week or two to himself during Advent worship, and several Advent hymns are about John and his proclamations about the coming Savior.

Today's gospel lesson in many churches was Matthew 11:2-11.  John was in jail again for his unpopular preaching, but was questioning whether Jesus (his cousin!) was truly the Promised One that John had been talking about.  Jesus responds with reminders of his works thus far, and praises John for his prophetic voice.

Today's hymn traces the whole of John's life, all the way to his death at the hands of King Herod. 

Herald, in the wilderness,
Breaking up the road,
Sinking mountains, raising plains,
For the path of God;

Prophet, to the multitudes
Calling to repent,
In the way of righteousness
Unto Israel sent;

Messenger, God’s chosen one
Foremost to proclaim,
Proffered titles passing by,
Pointing to the Lamb.

Captive, for the word of truth
Boldly witnessing;
Then in Herod’s dungeon cave,
Faint and languishing;

Martyr, sacrificed to sin
At that feast of shame;
As his life foreshowed the Word,
In his death the same—

Holy Jesus, when he heard,
Went apart to pray:
Thus may we our lesson take
From this saint today.

Henry Alford, 1866; alt.
Tune: BRUCE (
The Hymnal, 1907

Five (Liturgical) Years Ago: On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry

Four (Liturgical) Years Ago: The great forerunner of the morn

One (Liturgical) Year Ago: O Wisdom, spreading mightily

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Knowing You Are On Your Way

Another year in the church's calendar begins today, with the first Sunday in Advent.  These four Sundays before Christmas serve as a time of waiting and expectation as the commemoration of the birth of Christ approaches.  We have seen many Advent hymns over the last five years here at the blog, and they aren't used up yet.

Emily May Grimes (May 10, 1864 - July 9, 1927) was born in England but went to South Africa as a missionary in 1893.  In 1903, she married Dr. T. W. W. Crawford, another missionary in the Anglican church who was stationed in Africa.  Many of her hymns (such as today's) were written before her marriage and were attributed to 'E. May Grimes.'

Her texts seems to have appeared in more and more hymnals as the twentieth century progressed, unlike many of her contemporaries, though this is probably largely due to her most well-known hymn, Speak, Lord, in the stillness.

In the Advent light, O Savior,
We are living day by day;
Waiting, working, watching ever,
Knowing you are on your way.

In the Advent light rejoicing!
Songs of praise along the road
Seem to make the journey shorter,
Mounting upward to our God!

So from glory unto glory,
Gladdened by the Advent ray;
All the path is growing brighter,
Shining unto perfect day.

Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Pass the heavenly watchword on!
Go we forth to meet the Savior
Hail! the heavn'ly promised one!

E. May Grimes, 1902; alt.
The Southern Harmony, 1835

Five (Liturgical) Years Ago: Lo! Christ comes with clouds descending

Four (Liturgical) Years Ago: Jesus came, adored by angels

Three (Liturgical) Years Ago: Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates

Two (Liturgical) Years Ago: The King shall come when morning dawns

One (Liturgical) Years Ago: Once he came in blessing

Another Anniversary Today: World AIDS Day