|Bach's manuscript of Nun komm|
In Bach's age, all Christians who regularly attended church would have known Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland. This is a simple hymn about the coming of Christ.
Just hearing the tune evokes the profound message of the hymn:
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland,
Der Jungfrauen Kind erkannt!
Dass sich wundre alle Welt,
Gott solch' Geburt ihm bestellt.
Now come, Saviour of the gentiles,
recognised as the child of the Virgin,
so that all the world is amazed
God ordained such a birth for him.
The hymn itself is by Martin Luther (German text and English translation); it is largely based upon the hymn Veni, Redemptor Gentium ("Come, Redeemer of the Earth" - Latin text and English translation) - by St. Ambrose - the bishop of Milan who had a profound influence upon St. Augustine of Hippo.