This is one of my favorite Advent hymns. It has some of the most powerful lines in the history of Christian hymnody, written by one of the first to really emphasize congregational participation in worship, Ambrose of Milan.
This hymn is also deeply theological. In Ambrose’s words we find the various theological controversies of the day reflected. Namely, the heresy of Arianism, which said that Jesus Christ was not fully divine, is combated in verse 4. Nestorianism, which argued that Jesus Christ was not fully human, is combated in verse 3. But beyond that, the hymn promotes the wonder and awe that we should all have when contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation. Verse three into the first phrase of verse 4 gives me goosebumps. Every time.
Give a listen to Christ Our King’s arrangement of this hymn from the 4th century. I hope it instills in you the wonder that it did for its first singers in Milan.
1 Savior of the nations, come,
Virgin’s Son, make here Your home!
Marvel now, O heav’n and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.
2 Not by human flesh and blood,
By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh —
Woman’s offspring pure and fresh.
3. Here a maid was found with child,
Yet remained a virgin mild.
In her womb this truth was shown:
God was there upon His throne.
4. Then stepped forth the Lord of all
From His pure and kingly hall;
God of God, yet fully man,
His heroic course began.
Savior of the Nations, Come
St. Ambrose of Milan, 4th c.
Translation of verses 1 and 2 by William M. Reynolds, 19th c.
Translation of verse 3 by the Lutheran Service Book, 2006
Translation of verse 4 by F. Samuel Janzow, 20th c.
Tune: Johann Walter, Wittenburg, 16th c.
Arranged by: Timothy R. LeCroy 2016
Performed by Christ Our King Musicians
Vocals: Tim LeCroy and Liv Cordray
Violin: Erica Kallis
Piano: Liv Cordray
Guitar: Tim LeCroy
Bass: Tim LeCroy
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