"ALL MY HEART THIS NIGHT REJOICES"
"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory…" (Jn. 1:14)
INTRO.: An old hymn which remembers that time when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us is "All My Heart This Night Rejoices." The text was written by Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676). Originally in fifteen stanzas beginning, in German, "Frohlich soll mein Herze springen," it is dated 1653 and was first published in the Praxis Pietatis Melica of 1656 edited by Johann Cruger (1598-1662). The translation into English was done by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878). Ten stanzas appeared in her Lyra Germanica, Second Series, of 1858. These were revised and four more added in her Chorale Book for England of 1863. The first tune (Frohlich Soll) used in the Praxis was composed by the editor Cruger. A few years later, a new tune (Warum Sollt Ich, Ebeling, or Bonn) was composed for it by Johann Georg Ebeling, who was born on July 8, 1637, at Luneburg, Germany. After studying theology at the University of Helmstedt, where he published an erudite dissertation in Latin on Archaeologiciae Orphicea sive Antiquitates musicae when he was just twenty years old, he became head of the Hamburg Collegium in 1660.
Two years later, in 1662, Ebeling succeeded Cruger as both music director at St. Nicholas Church and a faculty member of the Graues Kloster Gymnasium in Berlin. This particular tune appeared in his collection of 120 hymns entitled Das ander Dutzet Geistlicher Andacht-Lieder Herrn Paul Gerhardt’s mit neuen Melodeyen published in 1666. Then in 1667, he began teaching music, poetry, and Greek at the Carolinum Gymnasium in Stettin, Pomerania. In 1669 he published another book of hymns, Evangelischer Lustgarten Herrn Pauli Gerhard’s, providing a total of 113 tunes for texts by Gerhardt prior to his death on Dec. 4, 1676, at Stettin, now Szczecin, Poland. Some modern books "update" the language and begin the hymn, "Once again my heart rejoices." Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater, both of which use only stanzas 1 and 3.
The song takes us back to the birth of Christ and reminds us of the blessings that resulted from it.
I. Stanza 1 refers to the angels and their song
"All my heart this night rejoices,
As I hear, far and near, sweetest angel voices;
‘Christ is born,’ their choirs are singing,
Till the air, everywhere, now their joy is ringing."
A. It was night when the angels appeared to the shepherds of Bethlehem: Lk. 2:8
B. An angel announced to them that Christ was born: Lk. 2:9-11
C. The chorus of the angels then echoed through the skies: Lk. 2:13-14
II. Stanza 2 looks to the manger and its holy inhabitant
"Hark! a voice from yonder manger,
Soft and sweet, doth entreat, ‘Flee from woe and danger;
Brethren, from all ills that grieve you
You are freed; all you need I will surely give you."
A. Following His birth Jesus was laid in a manger: Lk. 2:7
B. The song figuratively pictures the Child in the manger as the one whose voice would later invite those who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him: Matt. 11:28-30
C. His coming into the world makes it possible for us to be free: Jn.
III. Stanza 3 encourages us to hasten and kneel before Him
"Come, then, let us hasten yonder;
Here let all, great and small, kneel in awe and wonder.
Love Him who with love is yearning;
Hail the star that from far bright with hope is burning."
A. We are invited in our mind’s eye to come, like the shepherds, to come to the manger and see the Christ: Lk. 2:15-16
B. We cannot literally kneel before the manger, but we can kneel before the Christ in obedience to His will: Heb. 5:8-9
C. Our submission and devotion to Him can also be symbolized by coming of the Wise Men who followed the star to Bethlehem: Matt. 2:1-2
IV. Stanza 4 tells those who are in need to cling to Him
"Ye who pine in weary sadness,
Weep no more, for the door now is found of gladness.
Cling to Him, for He will guide you
Where no cross, pain or loss, can again betide you."
A. Many pine in weary sadness because this life is full of trouble: Job 14:1
B. However, the coming of Jesus opened the door to true gladness so that we can rejoice in the Lord: Phil. 4:4
C. And to receive this joy, we must cling to Him and follow as He leads us to something better: Rev. 7:17
V. Stanza 5 points out that we need not fear God’s displeasure
"Shall we still dread God’s displeasure,
Who, to save, freely gave His most cherished Treasure?
To redeem us, He hath given
His own Son from the throne of His might in Heaven."
A. God’s displeasure or wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness: Rom. 1:18
B. However, the redeemed not dread this because they know that He freely gave up His Son for us all: Rom. 8:31-32
C. Therefore, we can have redemption through His blood: Eph. 1:7
VI. Stanza 6 identifies Jesus as the Lamb
"He becomes the Lamb that taketh
Sin away and for aye full atonement maketh.
For our life His own He tenders,
And our race, by His grace, meet for glory renders."
A. The one who was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger became the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world: Jn. 1:29
B. This He did by making full atonement or propitiation for our sins by His blood: Rom. 3:23-25
C. In this way, He renders us meet for eternal glory: 1 Pet. 5:10
CONCL.: The other stanzas are as follows:
2. "For it dawns, the promised morrow
Of His birth, who the earth rescues from her sorrow.
God to wear our form descendeth;
Of His grace to our race her His Son He sendeth."
3. "Yea, so truly, for us careth,
That His Son, all we’ve done, as our offering beareth;
As our Lamb who, dying for us,
Bears our load, and to God, doth in peach restore us."
7. "Hither come, ye poor and wretched:
Know His will is to fill every hand outstretched.
Here are riches without measure;
Here forget all regret, fill your hearts with treasure."
8. "Blessed Savior, let me find Thee!
Keep Thou me close to Thee, cast me not behind Thee.
Life of life, my heart Thou stillest;
Calm I rest on Thy breast, all this void Thou fillest."
9. "Thee, dear Lord, with heed I’ll cherish;
Live to Thee and with Thee, dying, shall not perish,
But shall dwell with Thee forever,
Far on high, in the joy that can alter never."
10. "Forth today the Conqueror goeth,
Who the foe, sin and woe, death and hell, o’erthroweth.
God is man, man to deliver;
His dear Son now is one with our blood forever."
12. "Should He who Himself imparted
Aught withhold from the fold, leave us brokenhearted?
Should the Son of God not love us.
Who, to cheer sufferers here, left His throne above us?"
13. "If our blessed Lord and Maker
Hated men, would He then be of flesh partaker?
If He in our woe delighted,
Would He bear all the care of our race benighted?"
We can understand the figurative nature of the hymn as it lovingly invites the sorrowful, the heavy laden with sin, the poor, and the distressed to the manger, there to thank and adore the Christ who was born to bring redemption to the world. Therefore, as I may picture myself as having been there, I would find that "All My Heart This Night Rejoices."