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339. From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

1 "From heaven above to earth I come
to bring good news to every home!
Glad tidings of great joy I bring
to all the world, and gladly sing:

2 "To you this night is born a child
of Mary, chosen virgin mild;
this little child of lowly birth
shall be the joy of all the earth.

3 "This is the Christ, God's Son most high,
who hears your sad and bitter cry;
he will himself your Savior be,
from all your sins to set you free.

4 "These are the signs which you shall mark:
the swaddling clothes and manger dark.
There you shall find the infant laid
by whom the heavens and earth were made."

5 We too must join the angel throng
to sing again this joyful song:
"All glory be to God in heaven,
who unto us his Son has given."

Text Information
First Line: From heaven above to earth I come
Title: From Heaven Above to Earth I Come
Original Language: German
Author: Martin Luther (1535, tr. composite)
Meter: LM
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ;
Topic: Biblical Names & Places: Mary; Christmas; Angels
Tune Information
Meter: LM
Key: C Major
Source: V. Schumann's Geistliche Lieder, 1539

Text Information:

Scripture References:
all st. = Luke 2:10-14

Written by Martin Luther (PHH 336) for his family's Christmas Eve devotions, this text (originally "Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her") was first published in Joseph Klug's (PHH 126) Geistliche Lieder (1535) in fifteen stanzas. Luther intended that stanzas 1-7 be sung by a man dressed as an angel and stanzas 8-15 by children.

As the basis for his first stanza, Luther revised the old folk song "Aus Fremden Landenkomm ich hier." Also called a "garland" song, "Aus Fremden" was used traditionally as a chorus in a game of riddles that involved the taking of garlands if a riddle was not solved.

The English translation is primarily the work of Catherine Winkworth (PHH 194), from her Lyra Germanica (1855). However, numerous hymnal editors have revised her translation. From the original fifteen stanzas the Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee chose to include five-the familiar narrative stanzas based on Luke 2:10-14.

Stanzas 1-4 contain the angels' words to the shepherds. Stanza 5 is the angel chorus (Luke 2:14), which we all sing as we share in the shepherds' and angels' joy. (For a similar narrative Christmas hymn on the same biblical text, see 215.)

Liturgical Use:
Christmas Day worship service; Christmas festival of lessons and carols, especially with the dramatic performance style Luther intended (suggested above); church school programs.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

Initially Luther used the folk melody associated with his first stanza as the tune for this hymn. Later he composed this new tune for his text. YOM HIMMEL HOCH was first published in Valentin Schumann's Geistliche Lieder in 1539. Johann S. Bach (PHH 7) used Luther's melody in three places in his well-known and loved Christmas Oratorio. VOM HIMMEL HOCH is a simple but spritely melody. Try having either a soloist (with an angelic voice) or a small choir, in harmony and unaccompanied, sing stanzas 1-4. The entire group or congregation could then sing stanza 5 in unison. Add strong accompaniment, possibly using one of the elaborate Bach harmonizations.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

MIDI file: MIDI Preview
(Faith Alive Christian Resources)
More media are available on the text authority and tune authority pages.

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