Sunday Musings after Christmas
First Sunday after Christmas. The Sunday between the end of one year and the beginning of another.
A good time to examine roots and think about how we will follow Christ in the New Year.
“Müde bin ich, geh’ zur Ruh”
If you have a rich German heritage in either the Lutheran Church or the Moravian Brethren, those words may be familiar to some of you. They are the first lines of a German children’s bedtime prayer. Still sung among some Amish communities, the origin of the words and tune goes back to 1842 at least. The author of the prayer was a remarkable woman, talented, devoted to Christ and extremely attractive. She turned down at least three marriage proposals and instead remained undistractedly devoted to Christ.
Luise Hensel (1798-1876) was the daughter of a Lutheran Pastor, her brother was a well known painter who was married to the sister (Fanny) of Felix Mendelsshohn the Jewish-Christian composer.
In 1869, the British hymn writer Francis Havergal (she of “Take My Life and Let it Be”) translated the original version of the second stanza with the words “Jesus, Savior, wash away / All that has been wrong today.” But the original wording of the following line (“Deine Gnad’ und Christi Blut”, Lit, in English, “Your grace and the blood of Christ”) has been soften to “For Thy mercy and Christ slain”).
Perhaps Havergal was just seeking a way to rhyme the line in English but my suspicion is that even in the 1860’s, just like today, some Christians were uncomfortable, perhaps even, a little embarrassed by references to the blood of Christ. It sounds so bloody, so messy, so brutal, so … primitive to post enlightenment minds.
But Jesus won’t allow it. And if we are biblical and if we are true to Him, neither will we.
“For I received from the Lord, that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed … took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; …'”
1 Cor. 11:23-25, NASB
A new covenant. The first one was written in blood and so is the new one. Jesus was painting a picture of His love. He was drawing from the palette of all the colors contained in the wonder, and tragedy, and forms, and patterns of the Old Testament. He would use his body as the canvas and his blood as the paint to express the brilliance of a love that came all the way from heaven, to a manger, through a cross, into a tomb that could not remain closed. All because he had determined to love us with a love that will not let us go.
And how did this little bit of research and thought stream start?
It started on page 36 of Eberhard Bethge’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography [revised edition] (Fortress Press edition, 2000). This was the prayer that Bonhoeffer’s mother trained the children to sing and pray before they laid their heads down for the evening.
Such prayers are the ground for future greatness in our children too. Here’s the full text and an English translation by Margaret Loewen Reimer.
Müde bin ich, geh’ zur Ruh, Weary now, I go to rest,
Schliesse meine Augen zu. Close my eyes in slumber blest.
Vater, lass die Augen dein Father, may Thy watchful eye
Über meinem Bette sein. Guard the bed on which I lie.
Hab’ ich Unrecht heut’ getan, Wrong I may have done today,
Sieh’ es, lieber Gott, nicht an. Heed it not, dear God, I pray.
Deine Gnad’ und Christi Blut For Thy mercy and Christ slain
Macht ja allen Schaden gut. Turns all wrong to right again.
Alle die mir sind verwandt, May my loved ones, safe from harm,
Gott lass ruh’n in Deiner Hand. Rest within Thy sheltering arm.
Alle Menschen, gross und klein, All Thy children everywhere
Sollen dir befohlen sein. Shall find refuge in Thy care.
Kranken Herzen sende Ruh, Send Thy rest to hearts in pain,
Müde Augen schließe zu. Close the weary eyes again.
Gott im Himmel halte Wacht, God in heav’n Thy vigil keep
Gib uns eine gute Nacht. Amen. Grant us all a restful sleep. Amen.
May God raise up a new generation to praise Him.
(cf. Ps. 78:6; 102:18)