“Wake, awake, for night is flying,”
the watchmen on the heights are crying;
“Awake, Jerusalem, arise!”
Midnight hears the welcome voices
and at the thrilling cry rejoices:
“Where are the virgins pure and wise?
The Bridegroom comes: Awake!
Your lamps with gladness take!
With bridal care and faith’s bold prayer,
to meet the Bridegroom, come, prepare!”
Zion hears the watchmen singing,
and in her heart new joy is springing.
She wakes, she rises from her gloom.
For her Lord comes down all-glorious
and strong in grace, in truth victorious.
Her star is risen, her light is come!
Now come, O Blessed One,
Lord Jesus, God’s own Son.
We answer all in joy your call;
we follow to the wedding hall.
Lamb of God, the heavens adore you,
the saints and angels sing before you
with harp and cymbals’ clearest tone.
Of one pearl each shining portal,
where, joining with the choir immortal,
we gather round your radiant throne.
No eye has seen that light,
no ear the echoed might
of your glory;
yet there shall we in victory
sing shouts of joy eternally!
A lot of Advent hymns are metaphorical. The watchman, the gates, the bridegroom, Zion as a woman, the Lamb… Some of the metaphors are mysterious for anyone who hasn’t studied them, and they are probably one of the things that makes much Advent music inaccessible.
This choral piece, an absolutely classic Advent piece by Philipp Nicolai from 1599, can be enjoyed just by listening and letting the music wash over you. But it’s also quite a lovely tune, and you can sing it on your way to work.