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Advent – Lo He Comes

The choir of Lichfield Cathedral sings the Advent hymn “Lo! He comes with clouds descending”. All pictures are of Lichfield Cathedral.

Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

Every island, sea, and mountain,
Heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
All who hate Him must, confounded,
Hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment! Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
Come to judgment! Come away!

Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear;
All His saints, by man rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the air:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
See the day of God appear!

Answer Thine own bride and Spirit,
Hasten, Lord, the general doom!
The new Heav’n and earth t’inherit,
Take Thy pining exiles home:
All creation, all creation, all creation,
Travails! groans! and bids Thee come!

The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!

Words: John Ce­nnick, Col­lect­ion of Sac­red Hymns, 1752; re­pub­lished and al­tered by Charles Wes­ley, 1758, and Mar­tin Ma­dan, 1760.

Music: Helms­ley, 18th Cen­tury Eng­lish mel­o­dy

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4 thoughts on “Advent – Lo He Comes”

  1. Thank you, Bosco. This hymn always stirs the emotions. It sums up the hope of Parousia. I enjoy Advent and really wish the church would savour the season, instead of prematurely holding Christmas carol services in early December.

    On Sunday I sang or tried to sing this great Advent hymn at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne. But that enemy of traditional religious English, ‘alt’, had been at work, trashing and vandalising the pure poetry of the hymn lyrics to the point where I gave up.

    Line 5 of verse 2 was the ultimate piece of vandalism: ‘deeply wailing’ was replaced by ‘deeply shamed before him’! What does that even mean? It is trite and worse than that, unsingable.

    I checked out on Youtube a few offerings of another great Advent hymn we sang (‘alt’ had also been at work) and noticed that the pop music reditions of “O come, o come, Emmanuel” were all in traditional English (thee, thou etc)!

    I mused on the absurdity of the situation: I was forced to use a bad contemporary language version which lacks the poetic beauty of the English Hymnal or Hymns Ancient & Modern text while at worship in a church (average age 55+), while pop bands choose to use a traditional language translation when they perform the hymn (average age 25+).

    Words fail me.

  2. I agree with Doug. Verse 2 exemplifies the anti-Jewish elements that can be found in the New Testament itself, suggesting that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus, a view that has done such extraordinary harm to his own people over the centuries, for example, through the words and actions of Martin Luther that the Nazis quoted in defence of their attacks upon the Jews. Incidentally, the hymn has been “alt” – altered many times. John Speller is one who has revised it, and restored some of Wesley’s wording. I am sorry I could not access Doug Chaplin’s version. For me, of course, the idea of a “second coming” is something I cannot accept as meaningful in any way (and I think back to Bishop John Robinson’s writing on this subject). Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ DOES come again – notably in the person of the least of his brothers and sisters, we being “judged” by our treatment of them. God bless.

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