From Heaven above to Earth I Come by Martin Luther


What Luther Would Teach Us: From Heaven above to Earth I Come

If you’ve been following The Sovereign, you know that I featured Martin Luther in October in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Luther was a theologian, composer and a musician who knew the teaching power of music. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to also offer a Christmas hymn from Luther in this Advent series.

I know this beautiful hymn from my childhood, but it may not be as familiar to you. When I found out it was composed for Christmas Eve, that was another compelling reason to feature this hymn today, December 24, 2017.

Luther loved Christmas and composed this hymn for Christmas Eve devotions with his children. Verses 1 to 7 were to be sung by a man dressed as an angel (I italicized these) and verses 8 – 15 were sung by children. (Source: Hymnary.org) I can just picture the tender father and brilliant theologian teaching his children in these verses. (See the notes for your free copy of Luther’s Small Catechism to teach your children.)

Can you hear these lessons, too, in this hymn? Here’s just a few:

Luther Sings:

“This is the Christ, our God and Lord,
Who in all need shall aid afford”

(Based on Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”)

“He will Himself your Savior be
From all your sins to set you free.”

(Based on  John 8:34-36 : “. . . if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”)

“There ye shall find the Infant laid
By whom the heavens and earth were made.”

(Based on  John 1: 1, 3, 10 : “In the beginning was the Word, . . . All things were made by Him; . . . and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.”)

His Children Respond:

“Thou com’st to share my misery;
What thanks shall I return to Thee?”

(Based on  Hebrews 2:16-18 : “…he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people…”)

“Ah, Lord, who hast created all,”

(Based on  Colossians 1:16 : “. . . all things were created through him and for him.”)

“And thus, dear Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To make this truth quite plain to me,
That all the world’s wealth, honor, might,
Are naught and worthless in Thy sight.”

(Based on  Psalm 22:27-29 : “. . . For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations…”)

What is Luther teaching you through his hymn?

From Heaven above to Earth I Come

For this Sunday’s video, I was looking for children singing and found a performance of From Heaven above to Earth I Come in the original German (Vom Himmel hoch) sung by the Vienna Boys’ Choir. (I have a bonus video in the notes section… another Christmas hymn by Luther.)

Lyrics of From Heaven above to Earth I Come (from Lutheran-Hymnal.com)

“From heaven above to earth I come
To bear good news to every home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing:

“To you this night is born a child
Of Mary, chosen virgin mild;
This little child, of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all the earth.

“This is the Christ, our God and Lord,
Who in all need shall aid afford;
He will Himself your Savior be
From all your sins to set you free.

“He will on you the gifts bestow
Prepared by God for all below,
That in His kingdom, bright and fair,
You may with us His glory share.

“These are the tokens ye shall mark:
The swaddling-clothes and manger dark;
There ye shall find the Infant laid
By whom the heavens and earth were made.”

Now let us all with gladsome cheer
Go with the shepherds and draw near
To see the precious gift of God,
Who hath His own dear Son bestowed.

Give heed, my heart, lift up thine eyes!
What is it in yon manger lies?
Who is this child, so young and fair?
The blessed Christ-child lieth there.

Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through whom the sinful world is blest!
Thou com’st to share my misery;
What thanks shall I return to Thee?

Ah, Lord, who hast created all,
How weak art Thou, how poor and small,
That Thou dost choose Thine infant bed
Where humble cattle lately fed!

Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
It yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for Thee.

For velvets soft and silken stuff
Thou hast but hay and straw so rough,
Whereon Thou, King, so rich and great,
As ’twere Thy heaven, art throned in state.

And thus, dear Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To make this truth quite plain to me,
That all the world’s wealth, honor, might,
Are naught and worthless in Thy sight.

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.

My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep;
I, too, must sing with joyful tongue
That sweetest ancient cradle-song:

Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto us His Son hath given!
While angels sing with pious mirth
A glad new year to all the earth.

Knowing God through Hymns

Starting in 2017, join me once per month in praising God for who He is. For this series, I’m using each of the hymns at the ends of all the 57 chapters of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Want  to find more hymns from this Sunday hymn series? Click the hymn tag.

NOTES:

The painting, Luther Making Music in the Circle of His Family, by Gustav Spangenberg, is in the public domain and is available on Wikimedia Commons.

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