Hymn of the Week: January 9
by David Sinden, Organist & Director of Music
St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Ladue
January 9, 2022
Hymn 116: “‘I come,’ the great Redeemer cries”
This endris night I saw a sight,
A star as bright as day,
And ever among a maiden sung,
Lullay, by by, lullay.
So begins a lullaby carol from the 15th century or earlier (“this endris night” means “the other night”). The 16th-century tune for Hymn 116, called ‘This Endris Nyght’ was paired with this Christmas carol in the Oxford Book of Carols.
As I write this reflection, it is, in fact, still Christmastide! But the Sunday lectionary sweeps us quickly along so that this coming Sunday, we will celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, traditionally held as the second of the three Epiphany miracles. And in the Hymnal 1982, ‘This Endris Nyght’ serves as the tune for words that tell of Jesus’ baptism.
The anonymous hymn text “‘I come,’ the great Redeemer cries” uses some poetic license to answer the cry of John the Baptist in Advent with a cry from Jesus in this fledgling Epiphany Season: “‘I come,’ the great Redeemer cries, / ‘To do thy will, O Lord!’”
The gospel account of Jesus’ baptism that we hear this Sunday may be the sparsest of all the gospels. In Luke’s Gospel, John and the voice from heaven have speaking roles, but Jesus does not.
Only in Matthew does Jesus speak in connection to his baptism. He replies to John’s objection saying, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” And this phrase appears (almost verbatim!) in the hymn’s second stanza.
This text and tune of Hymn 116 are a good match, and their pairing provides some meaning for this part of the liturgical year. The Christmas/Epiphany “star as bright as day” lights the way for the Baptism of Jesus, the Light of the World.
The three gospel accounts agree on what the voice from heaven says: with Jesus, God says, “I am well pleased.” In response to this, the hymn implores us to follow Jesus’ model and “fulfill God’s will in righteousness.”
Here’s a recording of the original version of “This endris night”
And here’s a recording the hymn: “‘I come’ the great Redeemer cries”
“I come,” the great Redeemer cries,
“to do thy will, O Lord!”
At Jordan’s stream, behold! He seals
the sure prophetic word.
“Thus it becomes us to fulfill
all righteousness,” he said.
Then, faithful to the Lord’s commands,
through Jordan’s flood was led.
Hark, a glad voice! The Father speaks
from heaven’s exalted height:
“This is my Son, my well-beloved,
in whom I take delight.”
The Savior Jesus, well-beloved!
His Name we will profess,
like him desirous to fulfill
God’s will in righteousness.
No more we’ll count ourselves our own
but his in bonds of love.
Oh, may such bonds for ever draw
our souls to things above!
Words: Christian Hymnbook, 1865, alt.