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

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