The Night Will Soon Be Ending

12 Dec

Over the past few years, Advent has crept its way past Lent, then Easter, as my favorite season of the church year. I still love the penitence and sorrow of Lent and the joy and celebration of Easter. But Advent captures my heart in a way that other seasons simply don’t. Advent is about patience and waiting and preparation, and while Lent touches on those, it’s the theme of hope around which Advent is situated that speaks to me so deeply.

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is often a joyful one, with family gatherings and holiday parties and wrapping up carefully selected gifts for loved ones. But for some, it’s the opposite of joyful. For the ones who have no family or approach such gatherings with a sense of dread. For those who sit at home under the weight of depression and anxiety, unable to eat, drink, and be merry with friends. For those who have lost the recipients of past gift-giving efforts or who have to choose between putting food on the table and purchasing presents. For those who flock to brightly decorated malls or file into elementary schools and instantly become victims of senseless violence.

Advent provides a safe space for these people, and plenty of others, who simply do not resonate with the oft-manufactured “joy of the holiday season.” The season of Advent reminds us that a dark and hurting world was lit by a Savior. Not a light-wrapped tree or a shiny new gadget, but the one who still loves us and redeems us today and every day. And the hope of Advent isn’t reserved for the four weeks leading up to December 25th. It is for every “dark night of the soul,” when we wait to feel the peace and joy that only our God can deliver.

This week, in chapel, I was particularly struck by a hymn we sang and its accompanying story. Below is the story of Jochen Klepper, and then the text of his hymn. My prayer is that it might become a narrative of hope for those who struggle during this season, and that we all might be reminded of what we truly wait for at this time of year.

This text was written in German by Jochen Klepper, and translated into English by Herman G. Stuempfle. Jochen Klepper, German poet, hymnwriter and journalist was born March 22, 1903 and died December 11, 1942. The son of a Lutheran pastor with Moravian roots, Klepper began a course of theological study at the University of Breslau which he discontinued to work as a radio journalist. By the late 1930s, Klepper had difficulty sustaining work as a journalist because of his marriage to Joanna Stein, a Jewish widow with two daughters. In 1942, after attempts to acquire visas and leave Germany failed, and with deportation of the family to a Nazi death camp looking certain, Klepper, his wife, and one of their daughters ended their lives. Klepper wrote in his diary that night, “Tonight we die together. Over us stands in the last moments the image of the blessed Christ who surrounds us. With this view we end our lives.”

The Night Will Soon Be Ending

(sung to the tune Haf Trones Lampa Färdig, also used for Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers)

The night will soon be ending; the dawn cannot be far.
Let songs of praise ascending now greet the Morning Star!
All you whom darkness frightens with guilt or grief or pain,
God’s radiant Star now brightens and bids you sing again.

The One whom angels tended comes near, a child, to serve;
thus God, the judge offended, bears all our sins deserve.
The guilty need not cower, for God has reconciled
through his redemptive power all those who trust this child.

The earth in sure rotation will soon bring morning bright,
so run where God’s salvation glows in a stable’s light.
As old as sin’s perversion is mercy’s vast design:
God brings a new creation — this child its seal and sign.

Yet nights will bring their sadness and rob our hearts of peace,
and sin in all its madness around us may increase.
But now one Star is beaming whose rays have pierced the night:
God comes for our redeeming from sin’s oppressive might.

God dwells with us in darkness and makes the night as day;
yet we resist the brightness and turn from God away.
But grace does not forsake us, however far we run.
God claim us still as children through Mary’s infant son.



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