Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light

Happy third Sunday of Advent!

Today’s hymn is another one I wasn’t familiar with before starting this series. As always, two renditions:


The original (in German) had twelve verses; I’m glad we have only one in English:

Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,
and usher in the morning.
O shepherds, shudder not with fright,
but hear the angel’s warning:
this child, now weak in infancy,
our confidence and joy shall be,
the power of Satan breaking,
our peace eternal making.
[source, where there’s a second verse written some 2 centuries after this one]

Now for the scripture in the song:

  • The phrase ‘break forth’ in the KJV (the Bible translation in use at the time this hymn was translated) is almost always used in relation to singing, especially in the book of Isaiah.
  • Secondly, the image of light ushering in the morning brings to mind John 1:5, 8:12, 12:46; Malachi 4:2, and maybe even Revelation 21:23.
  • The third and fourth lines allude to Luke 2:8-11, even though those verses contain no warning (I’m guessing that it’s there to rhyme with ‘morning’).
  • The next two lines, I think, can’t be pinned down to a specific verse. Though that doesn’t diminish their veracity in the least!
  • In the seventh line I see Genesis 3:15, John 12:31, Ephesians 4:8, Colossians 2:15, Hebrews 2:14 and 1 John 3:8.
  • In the last line I see Micah 5:5a and Ephesians 2:14,17.

As Christians reflect on those last two lines, we look back to the cross where Christ won the victory for us and we also look forward to the ultimate consummation of the breaking of Satan’s power when Jesus Christ returns with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones (1 Thessalonians 3:13, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Jude 1:14)!

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