What or Who is the Morning Star? It is Jesus, of course. It is one of several names in the bible given to symbolize him. It is most fitting, then, that during this season of Epiphany, when the scripture readings speak often of light and radiance, that we sing and read about Jesus as the light of the World. A light that is always needed, but is perhaps more sought-after when the world’s events seem to darken our hopes and joys. Last Sunday, during the Prelude time I play a piece entitled “How Bright Appears the Morning Star” (Hymn 497 in The Hymnal 1982). **A Lutheran pastor from Unna, Germany, Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608), wrote the words of this hymn and is credited with the composition of the melody to which the words are sung. During his time as pastor at the church in Unna, the town was struck by a deadly plague. A window in the church overlooked the cemetery. It is recorded that there were sometimes thirty burials a day. In six months’ time he had buried 1,300 people. Obviously, this was a difficult time to be a pastor. When questioned as to how he managed to get through it, the author of the words below answered with this: “There seemed to me nothing more sweet, delightful, and agreeable 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…Death is not to be feared because death is when we meet our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Christ enlarges our scope of vision. We serve Him as much as possible here on earth, but there’s another chapter to come, an eternal existence in heaven with Him.” Below is the first stanza of this hymn, as it is translated in our hymnal. May it encourage us to seek and be the light of Christ.
How bright appears the Morning Star, with mercy beaming from afar; the host of heaven rejoices; O righteous Branch, O Jesse’s Rod! Thou Son of Man and Son of God! We, too, will lift our voices: Jesus, Jesus! Holy, holy, yet most lowly, draw thou near us; great Emmanuel, come and hear us.
**from The Complete Book of Hymns, © 2006 William J. Petersen