‘Comes forth the glorious Sun’

In the Christian life and in the church year Easter rightly looms large. “If Christ had not been raised your faith would be in vain,” we confess with Paul (1 Cor. 15:17). It’s no accident that in the church year there’s a “season” of Easter which comprises seven Sundays from Easter Day to Pentecost (May 15 this year). So even if your own church doesn’t emphasize the liturgical calendar, my focus here on two Easter hymns will be appropriate for the next month and half! (Next month I hope to bring attention to several profoundly Christian choral works.) 

Music paired with direct biblical or biblically based texts can have deep spiritual and emotional impact – in church, at home, anywhere. It can make the truth .and sheer joy of Christ’s resurrection and our own eventual resurrection and reign with him on the new earth all the more real to us.

Brian Wren is a British hymnwriter whose texts appear in hymnals across many denominations and the world. Wikipedia rightly describes him as a contemporary hymnodist “influential in raising awareness of theology in hymns.” This 1986 Easter hymn is a good example, sung to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” tune (#204 in Lift Up Your Hearts, the recent CRC-RCA hymnal.)

Christ is risen! Shout Hosanna!
Celebrate this day of days!
Christ is risen! Hush in wonder:
All creation is amazed.
In the desert all-surrounding,
See, a spreading tree has grown.
Healing leaves of grace abounding
Bring a taste of love unknown.

Christ is risen! Raise your spirits
From the caverns of despair.
Walk with gladness in the morning.
See what love can do and dare.
Drink the wine of resurrection,
Not a servant, but a friend.
Jesus is our strong companion.
Joy and peace shall never end.

Christ is risen! Earth and heaven
Nevermore shall be the same.
Break the bread of new creation
Where the world is still in pain.
Tell its grim, demonic chorus:
Christ is risen! Get you gone!
God the First and Last is with us,
Sing Hosanna, everyone!

We now go back four centuries to 1648 and Paul Gerhardt, who wrote 123 hymn texts, some 40 of which are still in use. A devout Lutheran Pietist, Gerhardt wrote mostly in first-person singular so that singing his texts becomes a highly personal confession. (Lutheran Pietism developed as an orthodox answer to the increasingly nominal faith of the German Lutheran state church.) Gerhardt’s texts are  also descriptive, meaty and moving. This chorale is set to a Johann Crüger tune (AUF, AUF, MEIN HERZ), translated into English in 1867. You can hear a fine rendition on YouTube.

Awake, my heart, with gladness,
See what today is done;
Now, after gloom and sadness,
Comes forth the glorious Sun.
My Savior there was laid
Where our bed must be made
When to the realms of light
Our spirit wings its flight.

The Foe in triumph shouted
When Christ lay in the tomb,
But, lo, he now is routed,
His boast is turned to gloom.
For Christ again is free;
In glorious victory
He who is strong to save
Has triumphed o’er the grave.

This is a sight that gladdens;
What peace it does impart!
Now nothing ever saddens
The joy within my heart;
No gloom shall ever shake,
No foe shall ever take,
The hope which God’s own Son
In love for me hath won.

Now hell, its prince, the devil,
Of all their power are shorn;
Now I am safe from evil,
And sin I laugh to scorn.
Grim death with all his might
Cannot my soul affright;
He is a powerless form,
Howe’er he rave and storm.

The world against me rages,
Its fury I disdain;
Though bitter war it wages,
Its work is all in vain.
My heart from care is free,
No trouble troubles me.
Misfortune now is play,
And night is bright as day.

Now I will cling forever
To Christ, my Saviour true;
My Lord will leave me never,
Whate’er He passes through.
He rends Death’s iron chain,
He breaks through sin and pain,
He shatters hell’s dark thrall,-
I follow through it all.

He brings me to the portal
That leads to bliss untold
Whereon this rhyme immortal
Is found in script of gold:
“Who there My cross has shared
Finds here a crown prepared;
Who there with Me has died
Shall here be glorified.”

Author

  • Marian Van Til is a former CC editor who lived in Canada from 1975-2000. She now freelances for journals and writes books. Marian is also a classical musician and the music director at a Lutheran Church. She and her husband, Ed Cassidy, live in Youngstown, NY.

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