31 Days of Song, Day #20

Only five days until Christmas!  I'm so excited.  I'm really thankful to live where I live--somewhere out of a big city where there's hardly any crowds, but we have everything we need right here.  It's such a blessing.

"Come, Thou Redeemer of the Earth" is a Christmas song I'd never heard before, but I find it very beautiful now that I've discovered it.  The best version I could find of it is in the credits of a movie.  Try as I might, I cannot figure out what the last verse is saying.

Let every age adoring fall;
Such birth befits the God of all.

* I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth. Job 19:25

This carol stretches back into the early, misty centuries of Christian history.  It was written by the mighty Ambrose, bishop of Milan, whose personal story is as remarkable as his carol is wonderful.
   Ambrose was born about AD 340 in Gaul (modern France), where his father was governor before moving his family to Rome.  In the empire's capital, Ambrose became a noted poet, a skilled orator, and a respected lawyer.  At age thirty-four, he was named governor of an Italian province and headquartered in Milan.
   A crisis arose in Milan after the death of popular Bishop Auxentius as the city argued about his replacement.  Tensions ran high.  Assembling the people, Ambrose used his oratorical powers to appeal for unity; but while he was speaking, a child reportedly cried out, "Let Ambrose be bishop!"  The crowd took up the chant, and the young governor, to his dismay, was elected the city's pastor.
   Taking the call seriously, Ambrose became a great preacher and a deft defender of true doctrine.  He wrote books and treatises, sermons, hymns, and letters.  He tended Milan as a shepherd would.  Under his preaching a young, hot-blooded infidel named Aurelius Augustine was converted to Christ, and St. Augustine went on to become one of the greatest heroes in the history of Christian theology.
   Ambrose continued preaching until he fell sick in AD 397.  When distressed friends prayed for his healing, he replied, "I have so lived among you that I cannot be ashamed to live longer, but neither do I fear to die; for we have a good Lord."  On Good Friday, April 3, Ambrose lay with his hands extended in the form of the cross, moving his lips in prayer.  His friends huddled in sadness and watched.  Sometime past midnight, their beloved bishop passed to his good Lord.
   Sixteen centuries have come and gone, and today the hymns of Ambrose are better known than his sermons.  His beloved Christmas carol, "Veni, Redemptor gentium," was translated from Latin by John Mason Neale in 1862 and set to a lovely, lilting fifteenth-century melody named PUER NOBIS NASCITUR.

Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
And manifest thy virgin birth
Let every age adoring fall:
Such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will,
But by the Spirit, Thou art still,
The Word of God in flesh arrayed,
The promised Fruit to man displayed.

The virgin womb that burden gained
With virgin honour all unstained;
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in His temple dwells below.

Forth from his chamber goeth he,
That royal home of purity,
A giant, in twofold substance one,
Rejoicing now his course to run.

From God the Father he proceeds,
To God the Father back he speeds;
His course he runs to death and hell,
Returning on God's throne to dwell.

O equal to the Father, thou!
Gird on thy fleshly mantle now;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
And darkness breathe a newer light
Where endless faith shall shine serene
And twilight never intervene

All glory to the Father be;
Glory, enternal Son, to thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.

* excerpt taken from Then Sings My Soul Special Edition by Robert Morgan, pages 40-41

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