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27 November 2010

The night is far gone, the day is near ...

The night is quickly paling 
and dawn is not too far.
Our praises should be hailing 
the radiant morning star!
Those who in tears were spending 
the night, come, join with cheer.
The morning star is lending 
light to your pain and fear.

Whom angels are assisting
a child and serf has turned.
God is himself insisting
that he our redress earned.
If guilt's your tribulation,
do not your head conceal.
To find your liberation
believe the child and kneel.

The night is disappearing,
the manger to behold
go now! Find those revering
salvation, from of old
with eagerness expected
since your own fall took place.
Now one whom God elected
bonds with the human race.

Though many nights will hover
o'er human guilt and pain,
now, all our steps to cover,
God's star declares love's reign.
Alight in brilliant splendor
you leave gloom's tyranny.
God's own face did engender
the plan to set you free.

In twilight God is living
and yet he makes it glow.
As though rewards he's giving,
he is to judging slow.
Who for himself completed
the globe, does sinners save.
Who here the Son entreated
will there the judgment brave.

Original text, "Die Nacht Ist Vorgedrungen",
by Jochen Klepper, 1903-1942, 
 translation by Fritz Wendt, born 1957

The German original of this poem, later set to music by Johannes Petzold, was written by German Lutheran theologian, writer and poet Jochen Klepper, a few years before, on December 10, 1942, he committed suicide with his Jewish-Christian wife, Johanna, and her youngest daughter in their Berlin home. This act was preceded by frantic negotiations with Swiss, Swedish, and German authorities to arrange for the emigration of this daughter; her older sister had managed to leave Germany for Great Britain in 1939. On December 9, Klepper had received the final "No" from the German authorities. The gas chambers of some German concentration camp were the all but certain destination for Klepper’s wife and her daughter; they chose instead to die together at home.

Like all of Klepper's poems, "The night is quickly paling" uses powerful metaphors that describe the oppression the Confessing Church suffered when during National Socialist rule "a night unlike any other night" descended upon Germany. Klepper's use of metaphorical language reminds us of how the author of Revelations wrote his book as a veiled commentary on the oppression first century Christians experienced under the rule of the Roman Empire.

Romans 13:11-14

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