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Notes on the Notes – January 6, 2019


This week’s scripture readings:

Isaiah 60:1-6    Matthew 2: 1-12

This week’s music:

“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.  After setting out the parameters of what it means to follow Jesus –  the Light – the final line of each verse is both a challenge and an invitation for each of us as we enter the season of Epiphany.

“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.
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

“Arise, Your Light is Come” (VU #79)

“Arise, your light is come!
The Spirit’s call obey;
Show forth the glory of your God, which shines on you today.

Arise and Shine 2.jpg

Arise, your light is come!
Fling wide the prison door;
Proclaim the captive’s liberty, good tidings to the poor.

Arise, your light is come!
All you in sorrow born,
Bind up the broken-hearted ones and comfort those who mourn.

Arise, your light is come!
The mountains burst in song!
Rise up like eagles on the wing; God’s power will make us strong.”

The lyrics for this hymn are inspired by words found in the book of Isaiah and written by Ruth Duck in 1974. The tune, FESTIVAL SONG was first published in 1872 in a hymn book for the Episcopal Church of the USA called Hymnal with Tunes Old and New.

Hear the hymn played on pipe organ at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYoUpNC4FAE

Hear an acoustic guitar version of the tune at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8W9UgtefhGo

“Unto Us a Boy is Born” (VU #54)

“Unto us a boy is born!
King of all creation,
Came he to a world forlorn, the Lord of every nation,
The Lord of every nation.

Christ from heaven descending low comes, on earth a stranger;
Ox and ass their owner know, becradled in the manger,
Becradled in the manger.

Herod then with fear was filled:
“A prince,” he said, “in Jewry!”;

All the little boys he killed at Bethl’em in his fury,
At Bethl’em in his fury.


Now may Mary’s son, who came so long ago to love us,
Lead us all with hearts aflame unto the joys above us,
Unto the joys above us.

Omega and Alpha he!
Let the organ thunder, while the choir with peals of glee doth rend the air asunder,
Doth rend the air asunder.”

Puer nobis nascitur“, usually translated as “Unto Us is Born a Son”, is a medieval Christmas carol from the 14th century (although it may have originated much earlier).

The carol became popular as a processional hymn following a translation by George Ratcliffe Woodward (1859-1934) first published in 1902. Percy Dearmer also translated the hymn for inclusion in the 1928 Oxford Book of Carols as “Unto Us a Boy is Born.”  Both translations are commonly used.

The carol references the story of the slaughter of the innocents as recorded in the Book of Matthew.

Hear the carol at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dcZfYAJkrA

“When Heaven’s Bright with Mystery” (VU #93)

“When heaven’s bright with mystery and science searches nature’s art,
When all creation yearns for peace and hope sinks deep in human hearts,
                Appear to us, O Holy Light;
                Lift from our eyes the shades of night.Herod.jpg

When Herod barters power and lives and Rachel’s weeping fills the night,
When suffering’s mask marks every face, and Love’s a refugee in flight,
Reveal to us your word of grace and make us witness to your peace.

When fragile faith, like desert wind, blows dry and empty, hope erased,
When withered grass and fading flower proclaim again our day’s brief space,
Breathe on the clay of our despair and work a new creation there.

When heaven’s bright with mystery and stars still lead an unknown way, when love still lights a gentle path where courts of power can hold no sway,
There with the Magi, let us kneel, our gifts to share, God’s world to heal.”

The words for this hymn were written by Rob Johns, a United Church minister in Winnipeg, as a submission for Voices United (1985).  Each verse is set up like a when/then pairing of what we see happening in our world and our request for God’s response in us.  The reference to Herod and Rachel comes from the book of Matthew, where Herod’s slaughter of the innocents fulfills a prophecy from Jeremiah.  Although the words reference the Biblical narrative, it is quite easy to think of events happening in our modern times that mirror the lyrics of the hymn.

The words are set to THE SUSSEX CAROL, which is a folk tune that was collected in Sussex in 1904 and which is often referred to by it’s first line “On Christmas night all Christians sing.”  It is one of over thirty-five folk songs adapted and arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams for the English hymnal (1906).  To see the original carol go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cmfCq8iKgY

See the hymn sung in worship at:  https://youtu.be/zgHPF9cL3MM

“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, Word 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;
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.”

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 words celebrate the coming of Emmanuel – God with us.  The hymn was published in 1994 in the Canadian Catholic book of Worship III.  

Hear the melody on pipe organ at:


To Ponder:  

How do we as a church community actively spread the light of Christ in the world today?

Christian Christmas Nativity Scene

Categories: Notes on the Notes