Saturday, January 9, 2016

169. Epiphany Hymn

Epiphany is the Christian feast celebrated Jan. 6 in the west, while that date pretty much serves as Christmas in the east. It celebrates the nativity story of Jesus as related in Matthew 1, with the eastern astrologers arriving with gifts to worship the newborn King of the Jews and inadvertently stirring up all kinds of trouble when they stopped in Jerusalem to ask for directions. I know and love many Epiphany hymns, but I've noticed a mild tendency among them to run with Old Testament texts related to the magi's visit to the baby Jesus to score attaboy points for the church's mission work. Here, on the other hand, is perhaps the least triumphalistic Epiphany hymn ever. The tune, dating from around 1714, is the exquisitely tender German chorale ICH FREUE MICH IN DIR.
O Word eternal, found
In time once manifested,
In strips of sacking bound,
In mortal flesh invested:
Lo, how a guiding star
Draws heathen sages west;
They seek You from afar,
Whom heav’nly signs attest!

Shall they, then, bless Your name
Who by such signs have known You,
While we ourselves, for shame,
Your chosen few, disown You?
Oh, infant God, forbid!
Still show us, holy Child,
What Your rude cradle hid:
God’s fullness, reconciled!

Be reconciled with us,
Lord, throned on high, most holy;
Be reconciled with us
By Your deep passion solely!
For us did You descend
Through agony and grave;
Now, if You but intend,
Yours is the pow’r to save.

With Your still human eyes,
Look on us, Savior, as though
The gifts brought by the wise
Came from our coffers also!
What gold, our heart’s true King—
What incense, Priest from heav’n—
What myrrh would we not bring,
Dear Victim for us giv’n!

With tender love we leave
Your presence, if You let us.
Yet help us, lest we grieve;
Meet us as You have met us!
With nothing in our hands
We seek Your gracious gift.
We travel godless lands;
Our heavy hearts You lift.

Dear Mary’s Son divine,
Be manifest, then, to us
Through Your appointed sign;
Forgive us and renew us!
We shall not pine or die,
Though onward we be sent
With no star in our sky
But word and sacrament!

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