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Eurasia Blog Devotion Special Edition: “Hark the Glad Sound”

In Russia, no decorations are put up for Advent aside from the Advent wreath which you can see in this picture on the altar of St. John's Lutheran Church in Saratov, Russia. This is because Advent is a time of fasting.

In Russia, no decorations are put up for Advent aside from the Advent wreath which you can see in this picture on the altar of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Saratov, Russia. This is because Advent is a time of fasting.

Wednesday is Christmas Day, so the Eurasia Blog Wednesday Devotion is moved to Monday this week in order to finish the fourth week of Advent and our series on Advent hymns. This week’s hymn, “Hark the Glad Sound” (Lutheran Service Book (LSB) 349) was submitted by Sarah Berta-Somogyi. Sarah is a Globally Engaged in Outreach (GEO) Missionary serving in Hungary. Sarah teaches English as a Foreign Language in a Lutheran high school, as well as frequently organizing other events for her students. The first two verses of the hymn are once again performed by Rev. Dr. Christopher S. Ahlman.

Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes,
The Savior promised long;
Let ev’ry heart prepare a throne
And ev’ry voice a song.

He comes the pris’ners to release,
In Satan’s bondage held.
The gates of brass before Him burst,
The iron fetters yield.

He comes the broken heart to bind,
The bleeding soul to cure,
And with the treasures of His grace
To en’rich the humble poor (LSB 349, 1-3).

Sometimes during the Christmas season, it is so hard to “hark the glad sound.” For those mourning the loss of loved ones or struggling under the weight of financial burden, job loss, being far from home and family, or any number of other difficulties, the joyful sounds all around only add to the sorrow. Preparing a glad song to sing is impossible. In fact, it is like torture to watch the happy, joyful faces of others, to hear their glad songs, and to be expected to sing along. For the mother and father who lost their baby this year, for the husband who lost his wife two years ago, for the adult who lost her parents 20 years ago, for the man who lost his job and can no longer support his family, for the soldier or the missionary serving overseas, Christmas’ joy can often only grate on the sorrow. The Israelites felt this grating on their souls when they were taken into captivity in Babylon:

By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth,
saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How shall we sing the LORD’s song
in a foreign land (Psalm 137:1–4)?

We may not be in Babylon of old, but we are held captive by our own tormentors, living in a world that was not as it was meant to be — that is foreign. Our sorrows and personal tragedies, our persistent sins, the devil and his hordes, death, they hold us captive. The hymn’s call to “hark the glad sound” and “prepare a song” torments us.

But the hymn does not leave us there. It does not ask us to prepare a song as if in the midst of perfection, as if all is well. It acknowledges our difficulties, our torments, our captivity. The Savior comes precisely because of these things. He comes to set the prisoners free, to break the bonds of Satan’s hold on us and on our world. He comes to bind up the broken heart, to stem the tide of the bleeding soul. He takes on flesh and enters into our world. He comes into the foreign land and lives among us. With the tide of His blood, flowing from the cross to the altar, He enters into our sufferings, our death, our sorrow, our captivity. Jesus comes to you this Christmas, in whatever circumstance you find yourself. He comes into your sorrow and captivity. He comes into the foreign places. And He dwells there with you. So if you cannot sing the glad song just yet, know that your Savior dwells with you in this moment to comfort and to heal. He comes to you and He will, when the time is right, give you a new song to sing. Until then, He’ll sing with you whatever song you need to sing, whether it be of sorrow, lament, or joy. That is what the Incarnation is all about. Jesus dwells with you.

Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, Who became Incarnate for us, dwell among Your people in joy and in sorrow; bring comfort and Your presence so that You may release us from our sorrows and captivities and turn our mourning into joy once again; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

  • Did you miss last week’s devotion? You can read it here.
  • Pray for all those during this Christmas season who are struggling under weights of sorrow and distress.
  • Be sure to check back on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 for the next Eurasia Blog Wednesday Devotion.
  • A Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year!

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