Lo! He Comes With Clouds Descending
Continuing with our midweek meditations on a hymn reflecting the theme for the week, we recall the Gospel lesson for the second Sunday in Advent, St. Luke 21:25–33, which reads, in part Luke 21:27-28 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. This will be the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Judge of the world at the end of time. How will those left on the earth at that time react to His coming? How should they react?
The hymn that we consider here today, Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending, is a Charles Wesley hymn from 1758. The common hymn tune is St. Thomas, but there is a popular variation known as Helmsley also. In the first verse, it paints a vivid picture for us of the descent described in the Gospel lesson, with not only Christ, but a large entourage of saints descending on the clouds as Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming. The second verse really focuses on Jesus the King, particularly how different He now appears compared to the way He looked during His first coming when He came as Savior. He now inspires dread, awe, and fear, feelings that usually were not brought out by the meek teacher and healer who walked the roads of Judea. All sinners will recognize their role in nailing Him to the Cross.
The resurrected Christ still bears the scars from the nails, the spear, and the crown of thorns; the marks are still visible on Him even though He has long since returned to Heaven. Those who are saved recognize that it is though these wounds that we are saved, and we are truly amazed at the sight of them. These wounds are the purchase price of our salvation, something difficult for us to fully appreciate. There is only one possible response to our Lord and King when He comes. We must welcome Him. We must great Him with the highest praise and honor and worship, acclaiming Him as our Lord and King to reign forever. We know that His coming means an end to conflict with evil; the limited power that evil had enjoyed previously is now completely ended, and Christ will reign without any rival forever more. Alleluia!!
1 Lo! He comes, with clouds descending,
Once for our salvation slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia, alleluia! Christ the Lord returns to reign.
2 Ev’ry eye shall now behold him,
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold him,
Pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.
3 Those dear tokens of his passion
Still his dazzling body bears,
Cause of endless exaltation
To his ransomed worshippers:
With what rapture
With what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars.
4 Yea, Amen! Let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Saviour take the power and glory;
Claim the kingdom for thine own;
Thou shalt reign and thou alone. Amen.
Here are some YouTube sources where you can hear this hymn:
Helmsley (organ alone)