The Name of Jesus

Today, Jan 1, is eight days after Christmas, and is therefore, according to Luke 2:21, the day Jesus was received into the Covenant (ie, circumcised) and received his name. This brings to mind one of my favorite hymns, “At the Name of Jesus,” by Caroline Maria Noel. It is typically associated with the great hymn tune by Ralph Vaughn Williams, King’s Weston.

Here is that wonderful hymn for your edification. (All seven stanzas! Hymnals typically only include four of the seven.):

At the name of Jesus
Every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him
King of glory now:
‘Tis the Father’s pleasure
We should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning
Was the mighty Word.

At his voice creation
Sprang at once to sight,
All the angels faces
All the hosts of light,
Thrones and Dominations,
Stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders,
In their great array.

Humbled for a season,
To receive a name
From the lips of sinners
Unto whom he came,
Faithfully he bore it
Spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious,
When from death he passed:

Bore it up triumphant
With its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures,
To the central height,
To the throne of Godhead,
To the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory
Of that perfect rest.

Name him, brothers, name him,
With love as strong as death,
But with awe and wonder
And with bated breath:
He is God the Savior,
He is Christ the Lord,
Ever to be worshiped,
Trusted, and adored.

In your hearts enthrone him;
There let him subdue
All that is not holy,
All that is not true:
Crown him as your captain
In temptation’s hour;
Let his will enfold you
In its light and power.

Brothers, this Lord Jesus
Shall return again,
With his Father’s glory,
With his angel train;
For all wreaths of empire
Meet upon his brow,
And our hearts confess him
King of glory now.

Humorous postscript: The time signature of King’s Weston (the hymn tune) is 3/2, which means there are three beats to the measure. For ages of ages, Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, NE used this hymn as the processional. On feast days we had a rather glorious full procession led by the acolytes and the crucifer, and followed by the clergy and the choir.

On many feast days the music director made arrangements for the Nebraska Brass to play the prelude, offertory, and postlude, and accompany the processional. Listening to “At the Name of Jesus” being played by the Nebraska Brass and the pipe organ, with the choir leading the congregation in singing (in full voice!) “At the Name of Jesus” is one of those truly glorious moments in worship.

But, the hymn is in 3/2 time. It means that on the first measure you lead with the left foot, the second measure you lead with the right, etc. For anyone who has had any training in marching (military, marching bands, and drum corp types), this is very confusing. While the music was always glorious, the marching was often ignominious. (Even after years of practice.)

The choir director despised using this hymn as the processional because processionals, by their nature need to be in 4/4 time (ie, a marching beat). Once, after one of the music director’s obligatory rants during the weekly staff meeting, I suggested we use “Onward, Christian Soldiers” instead.

… cricket sounds …

At least the secretary thought it was funny. But then again, she named her dog “Otis” … her pastor’s first name. So, I suppose having her support in all things sacred is not necessarily a good thing.

Speaking of all things sacred: Back to the Circumcision of Jesus. I suppose my favorite line of this hymns is from the third stanza in the poem: “Humbled for a season, to receive a name from the lips of sinners …”

God gave Adam authority to name the creatures he (that is, God) created. That in itself is remarkable. But for God to then become incarnate and allow the children of Adam to name him (that is, the Son of God) as well is astonishing!

The Word of God, the one who created all words, became human and was given a word, a name, Jesus, and at that word “every knee should bend, on heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10f).

Amen and Amen.


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