Today our churches commemorate the great hymn writers: Philip Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt. Of the three, there is no question that Nicholai is my favorite. His hymns "O Morning Star" and "Wake, Awake!" are known as the Queen and King of the chorales respectively. They are sung in almost every jurisdiction of Christendom - even by the Western rite Orthodox and the Roman Catholics. They are part of a book he wrote to comfort his parish. In a six month period the man buried 1300 of his parishioners due to plague. How to comfort the rest? How to give them a joy that death could not take away? Here are the opening words of his book "Mirror of Joy":
"As often as I call to mind the surpassing comfort of the promise of eternal life and of our heavenly home, my heart bursts out with joy and my soul rejoices in God my Savior. Think of it! There we believing Christians will behold with joyful eyes the Almighty King of glory, our only Redeemer and Savior Jesus Christ, who for us trampled down the ancient serpent! There we will gather with the holy patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. There we will see again with overflowing joy those we’ve loved on earth – our father, mother, brothers and sisters, husband and wife, children, and all our acquaintances who have blessedly fallen asleep in the Lord and have gone before us in true faith. There God will wipe all tears from our eyes and transform our mourning into dancing. He will clothe us with joy, so that our heart rejoices for all eternity and this awesome joy no one can ever take from us."
In the spirit of such comfort and joy, he sang the faith into the hearts of all Christendom with his magnificent chorales. Only two of them are well known, but there was a third hymn at the back of "Mirror of Joy" - someday I'm going to translate that puppy.
What joy to know, when life is past,
The Lord we love is first and last,
The end and the beginning!
He will one day, oh, glorious grace,
Transport us to that happy place
Beyond all tears and sinning!
Come, Lord Jesus!
Crown of gladness!
We are yearning
For the day of Your returning!
LSB #395, vs. 6