Happy New Year! We once again begin the season of Advent, and the start of a new Church Year. We selected LSB 334, O Lord, How Shall I Meet You, as our AD 2022 hymn for this beautiful time of the year, in which we remember our Lord’s first Advent, or coming into our midst, and anticipate His Parousia, or final coming. In the hymn, we reflect on Jesus incarnate to die on the Cross to atone for our sins, rise again to declare us right with the Father, and on the last day come to judge the living and the dead, and bring His saints, namely all Christian believers, into everlasting glory in His presence.
In the first four stanzas, we address our Lord as individuals, declaring as in the Second Article of the Creed, that all He did, He did for us. The first stanza recapitulates the theme of our All Saints-tide hymn, Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying (LSB 516). In it, we express our deep longing to meet our Lord, and that we would be ready to properly welcome Him. We ask Him to prepare us, by kindling His lamp within our breasts, thus confessing that He alone can do so. (As an aside, the words of this stanza may be used as a personal prayer prior to the beginning of the Lord’s services to us, as He comes to bring His gifts of Word and Sacrament to us.) Having thus been prepared, in the second stanza, we number ourselves among the crowd on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-9, Gospel for Advent 1) as we too adore Him, namely worship Him, “with joyous songs and psalms,” as He enters Jerusalem on His way to the Cross (much as we do as we sing the Hosannas in the Services of the Sacrament). The third and fourth stanzas point squarely to Jesus incarnate to die on the Cross for us. In the third stanza, we reflect on our slavery to sin, death and the devil, and the freedom which our Lord won for us (in His incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection), a “glorious crown” and safe “treasure” which, in contrast to worldly wealth, never fails or leaves us. In the fourth stanza, we focus on God’s sacrificial love for us as the driving force behind the incarnation of His Son to die for us lost and fallen sinners (John 3:16).
The fifth and sixth stanzas move from first-person singular prayers, praises and thanksgivings, to reflections on our Lord’s Advents. In the fifth stanza, we reflect on His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation, given to us in His regular comings into our midst. In the sixth and final stanza, we reflect on His final coming in glory and our certain hope of eternal life in Him.
O Lord, How Shall I Meet You was written by Paul Gerhardt (1607-76), one of the most beloved Lutheran hymn writers. The hymn was first published in 1653, when he was Pastor at Mittenwalde (18.6 miles southeast of Berlin), a call long-delayed by the devastation of the Thirty Years’ War. He was later to be dismissed from a second Pastoral call due to his unwavering confession of The Faith and his unwillingness to compromise with the errors of the Reformed. Furthermore, shortly afterward, his wife and four of his five children went to be with the Lord. Yet, through all of the attacks unleashed by the evil one, because of the “glorious crown” given to him, Gerhardt remained a faithful servant of Jesus until his death. And as baptized believers continually confessing your sins, receiving absolution, and being fed by His Word and Sacrament, you may be assured that, no matter what challenges you are facing in this fallen world, you too possess that very same crown, and are free to remain faithful until the end, knowing that you will spend eternity with Him.
We thank God for bringing you here today to begin the New Church Year by receiving His gifts in our midst! We pray His blessings on you during this holy season of Advent and throughout the year ahead.