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Appreciating Our Lutheran Hymns

When Sinners See Their Lost Condition

An Advent Hymn

#65 in The Lutheran Hymnal

When John the Baptist appeared to prepare the way for Jesus, he said: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 3:2). Jesus likewise began His preaching with the same admonition (Mt. 4:17). The people needed to have their consciences stirred if they were to receive their Savior at His coming.

So also we today make repentance a theme of our Advent preaching. We are prepared to celebrate the Savior’s birth when we acknowledge our sins and recognize our lost state apart from Christ.

The hymn “When Sinners See Their Lost Condition” helps prepare our hearts for the celebration of our Savior’s coming into the world.

This hymn was written by Magnus Landstad (1802-1880), a Lutheran pastor in Norway who wrote many hymns, six of which are in The Lutheran Hymnal. He also prepared a hymnal for the Lutheran Church in Norway.

Landstad became interested in writing hymns after buying two books on the subject at an auction, including one by the German hymnwriter Philipp Nicolai. He wrote three hymns for the Reformation festival in 1837 and began to collect folk songs, which also influenced his hymn-writing.

Our hymn of the month calls sinners to “see their lost condition,” promising the joy and peace that Christ the Savior brings with the remission of sins. “All grief must flee before His face, And joy divine will take its place.”

This hymn reminds us that Jesus calls those who labor and are heavy laden with sin, offering them rest for their souls. He “enters meek and lowly” to give complete release from sin.

There is also a strong mission element to this hymn (which was originally written as a mission hymn). The last stanza is a mission prayer, also appropriate for Advent when we celebrate the coming of the Savior of the nations. “May He soon to every nation Find entrance where He is unknown, With life and light and full salvation. . . .”

–Pastor John Klatt