Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sing Praise to the God of Israel

JUNE 24th is "The Nativity of St. John the Baptist" on the Church Year calendar.  Luke (1:5-25; 57-80) records the events surrounding the birth of John, son of Zechariah the priest and Elizabeth, his wife.  You'll recall that Zechariah was was struck dumb for his unbelieving response to Gabriel's announcement about the birth of a son to him and his wife.  Upon the birth of their son, when neighbors and relatives questioned Elizabeth's naming their newborn son John, Zechariah confirmed what she had said as he wrote on a tablet that their son was to be named John.  His tongue was loosed and he spoke words of praise and prophecy.  These words are known as the "Benedictus,"  the first word of this song of praise and prophecy in Latin.  The Benedictus is the alternate canticle at Matins.  Originally, the Te Deum was used at Matins (the first hour), and the Benedictus at Lauds (the second hour), but when the Reformers adapted these daily services to the needs of their times and decreased the number of the daily hours services, Lauds was combined with Matins and the use of the Benedictus retained.

This versification of the Benedictus set to the tune DEN SIGNEDE DAG is #936 in Lutheran Service Book and was written in 1992:

1.  Sing praise to the God of Israel!
        Sing praise for His visitation!
            Redeeming His people from their sin,
       Accomplishing their salvation,
            Upraising a mighty horn within
                 The house of His servant David!

2.  God spoke by the prophets long ago,
         His promise on oath recalling--
              To Abraham made in former years:
         Of vanquishing foes appalling,
              That those He delivered from their fears
                  Might gladly and truly serve Him.

3.  You, child, will go on before the Lord
          As prophet, His way preparing;
               To speak on behalf of God Most High,
         His counsel of truth declaring:
               Rich mercy and grace for all whereby
                   Iniquity is forgiven.

4.  O bright, rising Sun, now shine on us
          In need of illumination;
               Come scatter the shades of sin and death
          And shatter their domination.
               Be guiding our footsteps on the path
                   Of peace, in Your presence dawning!

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