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Notes on the Notes – January 7, 2018

This week’s theme:  Lost in Wonder

This week’s scripture readings:

Genesis 1:1-5   Mark 1:4-11

This week’s music:

This is the first Sunday after Epiphany, which was officially on January 6 this year.   The lectionary readings give us the very beginning of the Bible – “In the beginning…God created light,” and the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1).  This week’s music continues the idea of Jesus being the “light of the world,”  but expands it to include both the recognition of this by the wise men at Jesus’ birth, and by the formal recognition by God at Jesus’ baptism.

“As With Gladness Men of Old” (VU #81)

 “As with gladness men of old did the guiding star behold,
As with joy they hailed its light, leading onward, beaming bright,
So, most gracious Lord, may we evermore your splendor see.

As with joyful steps they sped, to that lowly manger bed,Christian Christmas Nativity Scene
There to bend the knee before Christ, whom heaven and earth adore;
So may we with eager pace ever seek your throne of grace.

As they offered gifts most rare at that manger crude and bare,
So may we with holy joy, pure and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to you, our heavenly King.

Holy Jesus, every day keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past, bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide, where no clouds your glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright none shall need created light;
You its light, its joy, its crown, you its sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing hallelujah to our King.”

William Dix, an insurance adjustor and amateur hymn-writer, wrote this song in 1858 after hearing the Epiphany Gospel.  The text is based upon Matthew 2:9-11 and Dix first published it in his own collection called Hymns of Love and Joy.   W.H. Monk adapted the tune from a 19th-century German choral specifically for this text and published it in the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861).

Hear the hymn played on pipe organ at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97wIbDRAJwU

“A Light is Gleaming” (VU #82)

“A light is gleaming, spreading its arms throughout the night, living in the light.
share its gladness, God’s radiant love is burning bright, living in the light.

When light comes pouring into the darkest place,
It hurts our eyes to see the glow.
Sometimes a word of hope reminds us of our fears,
Our memories and tears.

When night is round us and every shadow grows,bright-light
A star is there to light our way.
It tells a story of Jesus who came near to say:
“God’s light will ever stay.”

And Jesus showed us a brighter path to walk.
He showed us things we hadn’t seen.
Now we, like Jesus, can help creation shine,
And this will be a sign:

So let us live in the brightness God has giv’n,
And let us rise to see the dawn.
We trust that God is here asparkle and ablaze,
Warming all our days.”

The words of this beautiful song remind us that Jesus is the light and that, through following his way, we too can be a light in the world.  The song was first published in 1992 in Stickpeople, a collection of songs by the Canadian composer Linnea Good.

“In the Darkness Shines the Splendour” (VU #92)

“In the darkness shines the splendor of the World who took our flesh,
Welcoming, in love’s surrender, death’s dark shadow at his crèche.
Bearing every human story, World made flesh reveals his glory.

Light of nations, veiled in history, born of woman’s flesh and blood,
Calling to the depths of mystery restless hearts that seek the good.
Healing every human story, Word made flesh reveals his glory.

Broken bread, sustaining us in sorrow, wine poured out to toast our joy;Hands held together recieving communion at a modern church
Exodus and new tomorrow, life’s full promise to enjoy!
Gladdening every human story, Word made flesh reveals his glory.

All God’s people, sing in jubilation of the birth that sets us free,
Telling of the revelation:  Jesus, God’s epiphany.
Celebrate the human story!  Word made flesh reveals our glory.”

The words of this hymn draw our attention to Jesus as the incarnation of God’s glory.  The third verse also connects us to the sacrament of communion.  Bernadette Gasslein’s new hymn is set to the familiar tune IRBY, which is the tune for “Once in Royal David’s City,” composed by Henry John Gauntlett.   The hymn was published in 1994 in the Canadian Catholic book of Worship III.  

Hear the melody on pipe organ at:


“Beautiful Star of Bethlehem”

“Oh, beautiful star of Bethlehem,
Shining afar through shadows dim,
Giving a light for those who long have gone,
And guiding the wise men on their wayStar-of-Bethlehem1
Unto the place where Jesus lay,
Beautiful star of Bethlehem, shine on.

Oh, beautiful star, the hope of light,
Guiding the pilgrim thro’ the night,
Over the mountain till the break of dawn;
And into the light of perfect day
It will give out a lovely ray;
Beautiful star of Bethlehem, shine on.

Oh, beautiful star, the hope of rest,
For the redeemed, the good and blest,
Yonder in glory when the crown is won;
For Jesus is now that Star divine;
Brighter and brighter he will shine;
Beautiful star of Bethlehem, shine on.

Oh, beautiful star of Bethlehem,
Shine upon us until the glory dawn;
Oh, give us thy light to light the way into the land of perfect day;
Beautiful star of Bethlehem, shine on.”

This southern gospel song comes from the Appalachian region of the the United States.   Through the three verses the author takes us from the star leading the wisemen to the manger to Jesus becoming the incarnation of the star.

Hear the original recording of the song by the Stanley Brothers at:  https://youtu.be/9roIoDQHQxk

Learn more about the creation of the song at:  https://hillbillyatharvard.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/beautiful-star-of-bethlehem/

“Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow” (VU #541)

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow
 Praise God, all creatures high and low;
 Give thanks to God in love made know;
 Creator, Word and Spirit, One.  Amen.”

This doxology was written by Thomas Ken while he was chaplain at Winchester College, and was probably in use by 1674.  The tune, OLD 100TH, was composed or adapted by Louis Bourgeois and published in 1551.  It will be used as our offering response this week.

“Will You Come and See the Light” (VU #96)

This invitation in song is packed with striking metaphors and thought progressions.  Brian Wren has called upon his experience working for Third World aid and development projects to write this hymn.  He chose the Scottish fold tune KELVINGROVE as the setting for his text.  It was arranged by Valerie Ruddle, a British music teacher, composer and author.  The lyrics encourage us to look back to the Christmas story and other Biblical narratives (for example, verse 2 makes reference to Moses and the Exodus) but also challenge us to look at the world around us and asks “Will you hide, or decide to meet the light?”

“Will you come and see the light from the stable door?
It is shining newly bright, though it shone before.
It will be your guiding star, it will show you who you are;
Will you hide, or decide to meet the light?

“Will you step into the light that can free the slave?
It will stand for what is right, it will heal and save.
By the pyramids of greed there’s a longing to be freed;
Will you hide, or decide to meet the light?

Will you tell about the light in the prison cell;
Though it’s shackled out of sight, it is shining well.DarkRedRoomBrightDoor-Boskizzi-450x299
When the truth is cut and bruised, and the innocent abused;
Will you hide, or decide to meet the light?

Will you join the hope, alight in the young girl’s eyes;
Of the mighty put to flight by a baby’s cries?
When the lowest and the least are the foremost at the feast,
Will you hide, or decide to meet the light?

Will you travel by the light of the babe new born?
In the candle lit at night there’s a gleam of dawn,
And the darkness all about is too dim to put it out;
Will you hide, or decide to meet the light?”

Listen to a piano arrangement of the hymn at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLvXgcH8fVE

Categories: Notes on the Notes