Year C – Baptism of our Lord – How Lovely Shines the Morning Star

Summary–Today’s hymn was born in a time of great darkness.  Philipp Nicolai (1566-1608) wrote this chorale during a massive plague in the town of Unna, Germany where he served as a Lutheran pastor.  His window overlooked the village cemetery where sometimes as many as thirty burials took place in a single day. It seemed that every home in the town was mourning for a stricken family member. Many questioned if God could be in such a dark place.   But pastor Nicolai kept his attention on His firmly on God who was in control even in such dark times.  Listen to how his faith kept him going.  “There seemed to me nothing more sweet, delightful, and agreeable,” Nicolai wrote, “than the contemplation of the noble, sublime doctrine of Eternal Life obtained through the Blood of Christ. This I allowed to dwell in my heart day and night.” It was in the midst of suffering that Nicolai wrote ‘Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern”.

Insight–It is simply amazing how, no matter how dark the situation, even the small sliver of light will pierce a dark room.  Nicolai’s beautiful hymn tells us that we have the brightest light this world has ever known shining as clearly and as powerfully as the morning sun, sweeping away all remains of the night and washing everything in the light of Christ’s presence. We read in the book of Revelation that Jesus Christ is our Morning Star. He came and took upon himself all the darkness and wickedness that we had hidden in ourselves…he bore them on the cross of Calvary, he bore them so that we wouldn’t have to, he bore them because he knew we couldn’t.  How beautiful an act of love, How lovely is that Morning Star!  Equally as amazing is that this light is now so that ‘the nations see and hail afar the light in Judah shining.’ Gone are the days when God’s light only shined on His chosen people of Israel with the greatest promise in the world’s history. Not until the Morning Star appeared on the earth was the message changed from ‘come and see’ to ‘go and tell’ …For the Bridegroom is coming, and soon! He, the King who will judge the world, is coming again soon…so be ready, be pining in your heart for the return of this light.

How lovely shines the Morning Star!
The nations see and hail afar
The light in Judah shining.
Thou David’s Son of Jacob’s race,
My Bridegroom and my King of Grace,
For Thee my heart is pining.
Lowly, holy, great and glorious,
Thou victorious Prince of graces,
Filling all the heav’nly places.

O highest joy by mortals won,
True Son of God and Mary’s Son,
Thou highborn King of ages!
Thou art my heart’s most beauteous Flower,
And Thy blest Gospel’s saving power
My raptured soul engages.
Thou mine, I Thine; sing hosanna!
Heav’nly manna tasting, eating,
Whilst Thy love in songs repeating.

Now richly to my waiting heart,
O Thou, my God, deign to impart
The grace of love undying.
In Thy blest body let me be,
E’en as the branch is in the tree,
Thy life my life supplying.
Sighing, crying, for the savor
Of Thy favor; resting never
Till I rest in Thee forever.

A pledge of peace from God I see
When Thy pure eyes are turned to me
To show me Thy good pleasure.
Jesus, Thy Spirit and Thy Word,
Thy body and Thy blood afford
My soul its dearest treasure.
Keep me kindly in Thy favor,
O my Savior! Thou wilt cheer me;
Thy Word calls me to draw near Thee.

Thou, mighty Father, in Thy Son
Didst love me ere Thou hadst begun
This ancient world’s foundation.
Thy Son hath made a friend of me,
And when in spirit Him I see,
I joy in tribulation!
What bliss is this! He that liveth
To me giveth life forever;
Nothing me from Him can sever.

Lift up the voice and strike the string,
Let all glad sounds of music ring
In God’s high praises blended.
Christ will be with me all the way,
Today, tomorrow, every day,
Till traveling days be ended.
Sing out, ring out, triumph glorious,
O victorious, chosen nation;
Praise the God of your salvation.

Oh, joy to know that Thou, my Friend,
Art Lord, Beginning without end,
The First and Last, eternal!
And Thou at length—O glorious grace!—
Wilt take me to that holy place,
The home of joys supernal.
Amen, Amen! Come and meet me!
Quickly greet me! With deep yearning
Lord, I look for Thy returning.

Contributed by Mike Fenimore

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