For the Church: Singing Variant on Benedictus

from Apr 29, 2015 Category: Ligonier Resources

Singing is a natural and vital response to God’s saving work. Throughout history, God’s great deeds of deliverance have fittingly occasioned exuberant outburst of song. A few examples include the canticles of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18), Isaiah (Isaiah 26:1-21), and Mary (Luke 1:46-55). New songs are added to the sacred repertoire (Psalm 33:3) and the elect will continue to voice God’s praises throughout eternity (Revelation 5:8-14).

Moses’ canticle extols Yahweh as his strength, song, and salvation (Exodus 15:2). Numerous psalms (for example, Psalm 18:1-3), canticles, and hymns, including “Variant on Benedictus,” express this tightly interrelated threefold theme.

Variant on Benedictus” from Glory to the Holy One, is based on Zechariah’s canticle of praise for redemption through the Messiah, the Son of David (Luke 1:68-79). Stanza 1 succinctly sets the context. Zacharias, chosen to burn incense in the temple, beheld the angel Gabriel and “stood in awe” (Luke 1:5-12). The balance of the hymn elaborates on his prophetic response and seamlessly weaves together related redemptive material into a stunning fabric of exuberant praise. This is similar to the method of Isaac Watts, who paraphrased and amplified the psalms from a new covenant perspective while remaining faithful to its meaning.

Christ is our strength, salvation, and song. Christ “will come to raise salvation’s horn.” “Horn of salvation” (Luke 1:69) denotes a king’s great power and links themes of strength and salvation. Christ is the victorious, omnipotent Messiah-King who has delivered His chosen from all our enemies (2 Samuel 22:3; Luke 1:74). “Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God” is our salvation who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). He is our saving Light, the Rising Sun (Isaiah 60:1; Malachi 4:2) who “brings light to sin’s dark night, our Dayspring, Jesus, from on high.” Christ is our song, whose saving victory moves us to, with all saints and angels, “sing God’s praise, all the earth and heav’ns reply.”


Chosen first among the priests
To serve within the temple walls
Zacharias stood in awe
As he heard the angel call


Blessed is the Lord
God’s incarnate Word

Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God
Will come to raise salvation’s horn
God Incarnate, Word made flesh
To a virgin shall be born


Christ brings light to sin’s dark night
Our Dayspring, Jesus, from on high
Saints and angels sing God’s praise
All the earth and heav’ns reply


God’s incarnate Word

Experience Glory to the Holy One Today

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Randall Van Meggelen is chief musician at Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and provides direction for the church’s various music ministries. He is a graduate of Covenant College and Concordia University.