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Monday, December 22, 2014

Savior of the nations, come;
virgin’s son, make here your home.
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
that the Lord chose such a birth.

From God’s heart the Savior speeds;
back to God his pathway leads;
out to vanquish death’s command,
back to reign at God’s right hand.

Ambrose of Milan’s “Savior of the Nations, Come”
(tune: Nun Komm, Der Heiden Heiland)
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

“When we speak of wisdom, we are speaking about Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking about Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking about Christ.” As Christian Americans throughout the United States ponder the tragic events of the past several weeks in Ferguson, Missouri; New York City; and Cleveland, Ohio, how relevant these words of St. Ambrose of Milan (c. 340–4 April 397), author of the Advent hymn “Savior of the Nations, Come” seem. One of the most illustrious fathers and doctors of the early Latin church, Ambrose is also credited with promoting the Antiphonal Chant, a method of chanting where one side of the choir alternately responds to the other. Indeed, we at Fourth Church were treated to this style of singing several months ago when the Morning and Chancel Choirs sang antiphonally from the North and South Balconies. Such was the influence of Ambrose on church music that he became known as “the father of church song,” and as his hymns spread throughout the West, they became known as “Ambrosian” hymns.

But it is the words of these hymns, as much as the music, that continue to inspire. The last two lines of the first stanza of “Savior of the Nations, Come” speak to the miracle of Christ’s birth, and the last two lines of the second stanza proclaim the triumph of Christ’s resurrection They also remind us of the words of the Apostles’ Creed: “He rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” For Ambrose, Christ was the be-all and end-all, the final vessel of wisdom, justice, truth, life, and redemption. If, in our quest for a response to the current crisis in race relations, we can keep these words foremost in our minds, then surely Christ will show us the way to lasting peace and unity.

Loving, merciful, all-knowing God, grant us the wisdom and the courage to seek truth and justice, peace and reconciliation, and thereby witness to the everlasting love of Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord. Amen.

Written by Claudia Boatright, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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