Songs of Advent – Savior Of The Nations, Come


MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Friday, December 11th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. The enduring nature of many hymns grows out of the biblically sound text. Bonnie Pritchett introduces us to one such hymn in this third installment of our Music of Advent series.

BONNIE PRITCHETT, REPORTER: According to church tradition, Ambrose of Milan wrote the hymn “Savior of the Nations, Come” in the late 4th century to refute Arianism—the heresy that denied the deity of Jesus. Sixteen hundred years later, Christians still sing the hymn that proclaims Jesus is God incarnate.

Ambrose promoted antiphonal singing in the church. That’s how his congregation would have chanted:

Savior of the nations, come, 

Virgin’s Son, make here thy home!

Marvel now, O heav’n and earth,

That the Lord chose such a birth.”

By the 6th century Gregorian chants were an integral part of church worship. 

In 2000, the Monks of the Abbey Rouen included the Latin hymn in their album “Gregorian Chants and Meditations.”

VENI, REDEMPTOR GENTIUM: [MONKS OF THE ABBEY ROUEN]

In 1523, when the Church was again battling for Biblical orthodoxy, Martin Luther translated the hymn from Latin to German. Luther’s friend Johann Walther slightly edited the text to fit a new tune, published in 1525.

NUN KOMM, DER HEIDEN HEILAND, BWV 61: [BACH COLLEGIUM JAPAN CHORUS]

The hymn continued to inspire musicians, including Johann Sebastian Bach. His Cantata 61 premiered on the first Sunday of Advent 1714. Here the Bach Collegium Japan Chorus performs—in German—their 2010 rendition of the still popular cantata.

NUN KOMM, DER HEIDEN HEILAND, BWV 61: [BACH COLLEGIUM JAPAN CHORUS]

American William Reynolds translated the hymn from German to English in 1851. A Wisconsin band called Koiné used that translation on their 2012 album Emmanuel Lux

While Luther and Reynolds remained faithful to Ambrose’s original text, musicians from Milan to Milwaukee have added their unique interpretation to the ancient hymn. The music has changed. But the ageless truth of Ambrose’s hymn has not:

SAVIORS OF THE NATIONS, COME: [KOINE]

LYRICS: Not by human flesh and blood by the Spirit of our God was the Word of God made flesh. Woman’s offspring pure and fresh…

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Bonnie Pritchett

SAVIORS OF THE NATIONS, COME: [KOINE]

LYRICS: Praise to God the Father sing. Praise to God the son of kings. Praise to God the Spirit be ever and eternally…Come. Savior come…


(Photo/iStock)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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