From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

Representative Text

1 "From heaven high I come to you,
I bring you tidings good and new;
glad tidings of great joy I bring,
whereof I now will say and 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, our God and Lord,
who in all need shall aid afford;
he will himself your Savior be
from all your sins to set you free.

4 "These are the tokens ye shall mark:
the swaddling clothes and manger dark;
there ye shall find the infant laid
by whom the heav'ns and earth were made."

5 Now let us all with gladsome cheer
go with the shepherds and draw near
to see the precious gift of God,
who hath his own dear Son bestowed.

6 Welcome to earth, thou noble guest,
through whom the sinful world is blest!
In my distress thou com'st to me;
what thanks shall I return to thee?

Source: Trinity Psalter Hymnal #304

Translator: Catherine Winkworth

Catherine Winkworth is "the most gifted translator of any foreign sacred lyrics into our tongue, after Dr. Neale and John Wesley; and in practical services rendered, taking quality with quantity, the first of those who have laboured upon German hymns. Our knowledge of them is due to her more largely than to any or all other translators; and by her two series of Lyra Germanica, her Chorale Book, and her Christian Singers of Germany, she has laid all English-speaking Christians under lasting obligation." --Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A., 1872… Go to person page >

Author: Martin Luther

Luther, Martin, born at Eisleben, Nov. 10, 1483; entered the University of Erfurt, 1501 (B.A. 1502, M.A.. 1503); became an Augustinian monk, 1505; ordained priest, 1507; appointed Professor at the University of Wittenberg, 1508, and in 1512 D.D.; published his 95 Theses, 1517; and burnt the Papal Bull which had condemned them, 1520; attended the Diet of Worms, 1521; translated the Bible into German, 1521-34; and died at Eisleben, Feb. 18, 1546. The details of his life and of his work as a reformer are accessible to English readers in a great variety of forms. Luther had a huge influence on German hymnody. i. Hymn Books. 1. Ellich cristlich lider Lobgesang un Psalm. Wittenberg, 1524. [Hamburg Library.] This contains 8 German h… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: From Heaven above to earth I come To bear good news to every home
Title: From Heaven Above to Earth I Come
German Title: Von Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her
Author: Martin Luther (1535)
Translator: Catherine Winkworth
Meter: 8.8.8.8
Language: English
Copyright: Public Domain

Notes

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

VOM HIMMEL HOCH

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. VOM 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 wel…

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