Awake1Today’s Word: ‘AWAKE’ as in… Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme!

I first introduced you to John Birge in the Today’s Word posting for September 26, 2019. I explained that Nancy Lee and I begin every day with our favorite Minnesota Public Radio host. We love how, at 6:00 AM on the button, John begins his program by playing some version of “Sleepers Awake” by Johann Sebastian Bach which is based on the Philipp Nicolai hymn.

This morning was no different except that today is the anniversary of the first performance. Bach composed the chorale in Leipzig for the 27th Sunday after Trinity and first performed 288 years ago today, on November 25, 1731.

The text is based on Matthew 25:1-13 and tells the story of the wise and foolish virgins.

Here’s a translation of stanza One:

Awake, calls the voice to us of the watchmen high up in the tower; awake, you city of Jerusalem. Midnight the hour is named; they call to us with bright voices; where are you, wise virgins? Indeed, the Bridegroom comes; rise up and take your lamps, Alleluia! Make yourselves ready for the wedding, you must go to meet Him.”

Stanza Two continues,

“Zion hears the watchman singing,” and asks, “Now come, O Blessed One,/Lord Jesus, God’s own Son,” telling us that Jesus is that bridegroom. Zion hears the watchmen sing, her heart leaps for joy within her, she wakens and hastily arises. Her glorious Friend comes from heaven, strong in mercy, powerful in truth, her light becomes bright, her star rises. Now come, precious crown, Lord Jesus, the Son of God! Hosannah! We all follow to the hall of joy and hold the evening meal together.”

The final stanza culminates with this:

“Let Gloria be sung to You with mortal and angelic tongues, with harps and even with cymbals. Of twelve pearls the portals are made, In Your city we are companions Of the angels high around Your throne. No eye has ever perceived, no ear has ever heard such joy as our happiness, io, io, eternally in dulci jubilo!”

All of that amazing history and data aside, you probably want to just head on over to YouTube and watch and listen to this great jazz arrangement of “Sleepers Awake” by Jacques Loussier.

If it can be respectfully said that someone “crushes it” with regard to J. S. Bach, then Jacques Loussier and his musician friends certainly do that here.


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