Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category

Four Nativity Hymns: A Repost

It is December once again, and as we remember Christ’s birth during the advent season, let us reflect from the Gospel according to Luke the four nativity hymns. These hymns according to Ryken may well be considered as the last of the Psalms and the beginning of the new covenant hymns. May this Advent truly bring the meaning of the Incarnation, and may it serve to help us trust more and more on this Great Savior–the glory of Israel!

Mary’s Magnificat (1:39-55)

Zechariah’s Benedictus (1:56-80)

The Angels’ Gloria (2:8-20)

Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis (2:21-38)


Nunc Dimittis

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:25-35 ESV)

Nunc dimittis, literally means, “now dismiss” your servant. What a beautiful hymn of praise to our Heavenly Father. For anyone who has seen the Messiah and taken hold of Him, this person is ready to depart. The word of God has been fulfilled and the servant has been rewarded for his longing.

Faith in Christ is clinging to Him–it is clinging to the person of Christ and the completed work on the cross. His death on the cross is a historical fact; that the righteous has died for the unrighteous. That great exchange on the cross was accomplished by this Christ-child. My sin was imputed on him and his righteousness imputed on me.

The Gloria

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:8-14 ESV

Glória in excélsis Deo
et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis.

The Benedictus

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:67-79 (ESV)

Zechariah “blessed” (benedictus in Latin) God for his redeeming work. He also blessed his son. According to Ryken, “The order is significant. In spite of his fatherly pride, Zechariah recognized the subordinate position of his son.” (Luke, 62).

The Magnificat

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)

In the Latin translation of this hymn of Mary, magnificat is the first word which means “magnifies” in English. This song of praise can be divided into two parts (following Philip Ryken’s outline): first, God lifts the humble, verses 46-50; second, God humbles the proud, verses 51-55.

The messianic hope as found in the old covenant is now being realized in the choosing of Mary to carry the Messiah. When Mary visited her cousin, her pronouncement and the baby’s joy in meeting the Messiah served to give assurance to Mary. Thus Mary’s praise to God for choosing a lowly woman like her. Yet He is to be magnified for He alone deserves all the glory for this wonderful grace.