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29 December 2014

Communion Hymn for Christmas

My God, your feast, high and resplendent,
has meant the burdened without fail.
Who never knew their dread of judgment
as the most guilty to bewail,
to them your star stayed deeply cloaked,
leaving your Christmas uninvoked.
The first spectators you were choosing
appeared to have of hope no thought.
Afraid as if you were accusing,
the shepherds were a doleful lot.
To lowly ones on fields maligned
you gave the message for mankind.

The gala grew too bright and brilliant
with which the world your feast acclaims.
Oh make us for the night resilient
when just your star the heavens frames.
Now high above the manger stall
show, Son of Man, your cross to all.

That we may use this designation,
Lord, burn into our hearts to stay.
If we forego all celebration,
as “Christ Day” we will keep each day.
We you exalt in pain, guilt, dread,
and worship you with wine and bread.

German by Jochen Klepper, 1936. English by Fritz Wendt, 2005.

Jochen Klepper, Lutheran pastor, journalist and poet, was a martyr of the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany. Scholars suggest that the “Communion Hymn for Christmas”, written in 1936 when Germany hosted the Olympics, may have been a veiled commentary on the “bright and brilliant” ways in which Germany presented itself to the world at the games.

The text works well with the tune by Cornelius Dretzel found at LBW 192 ("Baptized into Your Name, Most Holy").

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