By the mystery of Your holy incarnation . . . Help us, good Lord.
— The Litany
Hymns for Christmastide are generally based on St. Luke’s Christmas narrative (Luke 2:1–21) or St. John’s Prologue on the Word made flesh (John 1:1–14). Hymns expounding on Luke 2 (“Once in Royal David’s City,” “What Child Is This,” et al.) generally focus on the history of the Christmas story and the response of penitent faith. Hymns based on John 1, however, usually proclaim the theology of the incarnation and how the Christ is enfleshed among us: “Not by human flesh and blood, By the Spirit of our God, Was the Word of God made flesh” and “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity.” Sacred choral music for the season also follows these two complementary theological paths, which the church year traces from Christmas Eve (usually focused on Luke 2) to the Christ-Mass, with its appointed Gospel Lesson from John 1. Christmas Eve having passed this year, please join me during the Twelve Days of Christmas to explore three settings of selected verses of John 1 in Latin, German, and English, all coincidentally written by composers whose last name starts with the letter “H.”
Pr Brian Hamer
Brian J. Hamer is Chaplain to Destroyer Squadron 23, Naval Base San Diego, via the LCMS Board for International Mission Services.