A Hymn for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

The Nativity of John the Baptist in Speyer, Germany
Audio: Listen to A Hymn for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist chanted.

1. Let the example of Saint John remind us,
Ere we can meetly sing his deeds of wonder,
Hearts must be chastened,
And the bonds that bind us broken asunder!

2. Lo! a swift angel, from the skies descending,
Tells to his father what shall be his naming;
All his life’s greatness to its bitter ending
Duly proclaiming.

3. But when he doubted what the angel told him,
Came to him dumbness to confirm the story;
At John’s appearing, healed again behold him,
Chanting John’s glory!

4. Oh! what a splendour and a revelation
Came to each mother, at his joyful leaping,
Greeting his Monarch, King of ev’ry nation,
In the womb sleeping.

5. E’en in his childhood, ‘mid the desert places,
He had a refuge from the city gained,
Far from all slander and its bitter traces,
Living unstained.

6. Often had prophets in the distant ages
Sung to announce the Daystar and to name Him;
But as the Savior, last of all the sages,
John did proclaim Him.

7. Than John the Baptist, none of all Eve’s daughters
E’er bore a greater, whether high or lowly:
He was thought worthy, washing in the waters
Jesus the holy.

8. Angels in orders everlasting praise Thee,
God in Thy triune Majesty tremendous;
Hark to the prayers we, penitents, upraise Thee:
Save and defend us. Amen.


Antra deserti, Paulus Diaconus, 8th century, trans. by R.E. Roberts, alt.
*At Morning Prayer: stanzas 1-4, 8; at Vespers: stanzas 5-8.
*An excerpt from The Brotherhood Prayer Book

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Weedon endorses The Great Works of God: Exodus

And just when you thought that the great works of God couldn’t get any greater after you’ve had the joy of Jesus all through his read of Genesis, Valerius Herberger marches into Exodus, and it’s more Jesus under every bush. Well, in every bush that burns and is not consumed!

What a tremendous blessing translator Matthew Carver has given us to enjoy the insights of Herberger’s iconic read of the Scriptures in English. Irenaeus famously wrote that the heretics take the stones of the mosaic that is Scripture and rearrange them, so that what emerges is a picture, not of the great King, but of a fox. Herberger is no heretic! He lets the stones be just where the Spirit plops them, but by that same Spirit he opens our eyes to see in them on every page the astounding image of the great King whose love embraced a world on His cross that it might live through Him.

There is no wonder this man was regarded as the Lutheran Chrysostom. His piety burns with the fire of the Spirit and his joy in Christ is unquenchable, nourished by the Sacred Scriptures. You will be so blessed by joining Herberger on your journey and letting him be your guide in the Word. The Church owes a debt of gratitude to Matthew Carver for this labor of love, to the Master of Divinity Class of 2018 of Concordia Theological Seminary for the foresight to fund such an endeavor, and to Emmanuel Press for publishing it!

-William Weedon, Chaplain, LCMS Director of Worship

For excerpts and purchase information, visit The Great Works of God, Parts Five and Six: The Mysteries of Christ in the Book of Exodus.

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On the use of ceremonies

Why is it that some Christians kneel, bow, genuflect, make the sign of the cross on themselves, or hold their hands in a particular fashion during the Divine Service? These physical actions are called ceremonies, which are solemn religious actions that help to confess what we believe.

As Paul H.D. Lang writes in Ceremony and Celebration, “Communication is not limited to language. We express ourselves to others and we receive impressions from others and from God through signs and symbols. These communications by signs and symbols are often more effective than those of language. While this is true in ordinary life, it is particularly true in the church’s worship. The things communicated there have to do with the mysteries of our holy faith. These deep mysteries cannot, of course, be communicated so as to be understood fully or else they would no longer be mysteries. But signs and symbols often communicate the realities of the mysteries better than language.” (p. 64)

Here are a few brief excerpts on the particular actions, taken from Lang’s much more detailed explanations in his book:

  • “For standing, sitting, and kneeling, the general rule is that we stand for prayer and praise, we sit for instruction and for lengthy chants and hymns, and we kneel for confession and adoration.” (p. 66)
  • “Bowing and genuflecting are very closely related. A genuflection is merely a more profound bow….Bowing or kneeling when the words of the Nicene Creed are said, ‘And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost…and was made man,’ expresses reverent awe over God’s grace in becoming man in order to redeem us. Luther speaks at length about the meaning of these words and how we should show our appreciation and reverence for the Incarnation.” (p. 68-69)
  • “Crossing oneself was practiced by Christians from the earliest centuries and may go back to apostolic times….It is one of the traditional ceremonies that was most definitely retained by Luther and the Lutheran Church in the 16th-century Reformation….The holy cross is the symbol of our salvation. We were signed with it when we were baptized. It is the sign by which the church blesses people and things. By using it we become part of the wonderful history of our faith and companions in the company of the saints. It is right that we should make the sign of the cross frequently and to glory in it, saying with St. Paul, ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Gal. 6:14)”. (p. 72-73)
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What an Altar Guild Should Know: Not Just for the Altar Guild


Along with Ceremony and Celebration (see the previous post), we also offer this gem from Paul H. D. Lang: What an Altar Guild Should Know. In this book, Lang gives detailed information about church services and rubrics, liturgical terms, everything related to the altar, sacred vessels and linens, paraments, and other topics related to liturgical worship.

However, this is not just a How To manual for altar guild members and their pastors. Lang offers keen theological insight into why reverence and beauty and the externals of worship matter. Anyone interested in liturgical worship would benefit from reading this book in conjunction with Ceremony and Celebration.

Beautifying worship: “The service which the altar guild can render is valuable as an aid to extol the beauty and greatness of God and to awaken the response of His people in all forms of beauty, care, and reverence. Beauty in the church is not a matter of indifference….Why do we want to make the house of God and our worship of God as reverent and beautiful as possible? Such a desire is of God and for God. He is present in our churches. Through His Word and sacraments, Christ comes to us as we are gathered together in His name.” (p. 11)

Preparing a setting for the Gospel: “By making God’s house and the services of the church more beautiful, we provide the Gospel a setting in which it is more attractive to people and puts them in a more receptive frame of mind for worship….Of course, God’s Word and sacraments are not dependent on human embellishment for effectiveness. They are in themselves ‘the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth’ (Rom. 1:16). It is only fitting, however, that we should present them in surroundings that are as attractive as we can make them.” (p. 11-12)

Externals not essential, but important: “God has not given Christians of the New Testament era specific laws governing the outward forms of worship. Christianity is not essentially a matter of externals but of faith and life….Where the Word of God is rightly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered, there is the Christian church….Nonetheless, externals are invariably associated with Christian worship. Therefore they are important. Christian doctrine, faith, and life are never merely theoretical, barren, or lifeless. They express themselves in outward acts.” (p. 12-13)

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Back in stock: Ceremony and Celebration

“Our attitude toward human rites and ceremonies is evangelical, not legalistic. Rubrics and directions do not proceed from the Law but from the Gospel. We do not want conformity on the basis of legal compunction, but on the basis of our new life in Jesus Christ by which we are made free from the curse of the Law and are enabled by the Holy Spirit to live more and more in Christian love and liberty.”

-Paul H. D. Lang in Ceremony and Celebration, an excellent resource for those who want to better understand why we do what we do in the Divine Service.

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The Great Works of God: Exodus – A “remarkable set of meditations”

“Behold, I come, in the book it is written of Me.” With this “profound and wonderful word” Valerius Herberger began his remarkable set of meditations in The Great Works of God, Parts Five and Six: The Mysteries of Christ in the Book of ExodusNow Matthew Carver has produced a highly readable translation of this Lutheran pastor’s devotional commentary.

This is no dry academic work, although its author was by no means devoid of linguistic expertise and theological erudition. Rather, it is a series of animated exegetical studies, complete with vivid applications, that reflect Herberger’s conviction that the point of scholarship in the service of the Church is ultimately worship. Each of the 134 meditations begins with the word “Jesus.” Even though some 400 years separate our own age from that of Herberger’s, anyone who wishes to learn how to read the Book of Exodus from a Christocentric perspective today will find much that is still uniquely valuable in this splendid volume from Emmanuel Press.

-Dr. Carl P. E. Springer

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Now available for pre-order: He Restores My Soul

Pre-order He Restores My Soul and save 10%! You’ll find a complete list of authors and topics on the book’s main page along with a link to the cover artist. Stay tuned in the coming months as we reveal the cover art and more details about this unique project!

While you’re waiting for the release of this new book, have a look at Katie Schuermann’s He Remembers the Barren, the book that served as inspiration for He Restores My Soul.

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Meet the book cover artist for He Restores My Soul

Last month we announced a new collaborative project with Katie Schuermann, a book entitled He Restores My Soul. Envisioned as a sequel of sorts to He Remembers the Barren, this new book taps into the wisdom of twelve female writers to broaden the discussion of suffering in the Church and apply the theology of the cross to a wider range of topics. (We’ll be posting a complete list of authors and topics very soon.)

Now it is our pleasure to announce the artist from whom we have commissioned a painting for the book cover of He Restores My Soul. Rebecca Shewmaker is an artist working in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Visual Arts from Rice University (2006) and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting and Intermedia from Texas Women’s University (2018), where she also taught Art Appreciation, Watercolor, and Basic Drawing classes. Recently her work was included in the Good Shepherd Institute’s Sola Faith-Grace-Scripture exhibition at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Selections from her body of work have been shown in several galleries in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where she lives with her husband, Tim, who is the music director at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Dallas. When not making art, Rebecca enjoys singing in the church choir, knitting, listening to audiobooks, and entertaining her two cats.

A word from Rebecca: “In my work, I study the beauty I find in the Northeast Texas landscape. My maternal family has lived near Bonham, Texas, for several generations and I grew up playing in 300 acres of pasture and woods. The seasonal colors and topography of the land serve as my inspiration. I often spend Saturday mornings exploring this rural area and photographing the landscape. Based on the photographs and my childhood memories, I create landscape-based artwork.”

We are honored to be working with Rebecca Shewmaker, and we look forward to revealing the cover art this summer! In the meantime, please visit her website to admire her beautiful paintings, including unique thread paintings that use custom-dyed cotton fabric for the peaceful colors of both sky and land.

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Shipping Hiatus: May 21-28

All orders placed by the end of Friday, May 19, will be mailed out this week. There will be a hiatus in shipping the following week, and then we resume our regular schedule on May 29. Thank you for understanding!



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It’s Book Release Day!

In The Great Works of God, Parts Five and Six: The Mysteries of Christ in the Book of Exodus, Valerius Herberger shows that Jesus Christ is the center of every part of Scripture. The excerpt below is Meditation 47 (Part 5) in its entirety.

XLVII. JESUS, The Mediator, Places Himself Between Pharaoh and the Israelites (Exod. 14:19–20).

Moses said, “The Angel of God which went before the camp of Israel stood with the pillar of cloud between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of the Israelites.” Above He was called “the LORD” (Exod. 13:21). Moses says the same thing again here in Exodus 14:24. Now then, if it is Jehovah (“the LORD”), it cannot be a created angel. But if it is the Angel of God, then it can be neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit, and must be “the Angel of the covenant” (Mal. 3:1), our Lord Jesus, as also the ancient Doctors of the Church and our own professors have proven from St. Paul.

O Lord Jesus, how comforting this is! When Moses sighed and the Israelites wept, You clearly demonstrated that You were alive, as Job 19:25 says, that You heard it, and that it stirred Your heart. And since the Israelites could not make very quick progress, You camped in their midst all night so that Pharaoh would be unable to gain power over them before they had traveled a good way into the Red Sea and escaped his wrath. You are the Angel which encamps round about the God-fearing (Ps. 34:7), like Elisha (2 Kings 6:17). You are a wall of fire round about Your people (Zech. 2:5). You are “the Angel which redeemed Jacob from all evil” (Gen. 48:16). Oh, how beautifully Your comforting office of Mediator is depicted to me here! O Lord Jesus, dear Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), when the fierce wrath of Your Father burned against me, You stood between us so that the fiery wrath of Your Father would not consume me.

When the world, the devil, and death, yea, every foe of my salvation blew one horn and pursued me in order to capture me, You went behind me and stood between my foes and my misery, that I might be kept on the true road of faith to eternal life. (p. 234)

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