The hymns suggested during Epiphany could be considered tunes and texts about stars, sky and brightness. It certainly is a powerful metaphor and adds a glimmer of hope and brightness during the otherwise dull and dark days of January. Our opening hymn, "O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright" was written from a dark place that needed some light by Philipp Nicolai. Nicolai was a German pastor, poet and composer. Two of his most famous hymns include "O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright" and "Wachet Auf" or "Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying". Nicolai was the pastor in Unna, Germany, when the bubonic plague was terrorizing Europe. After seeing 30 graves dug in a single day, he felt compelled to write these word for "O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright".
"Bright and Glorious Is the Sky" was written by the great Danish hymn writer Nikolai F. S. Grundtvig. This particular hymn was one of his earlier works and written for Christmas in 1810. What is interesting to note is that while Grundtvig was an educated theologian, like many of us, he struggled in his faith journey. After an intense period of spiritual reflection he went on to re-embrace his strong Lutheran heritage. This was of great comfort to him over the next 10-15 years as he had numerous confrontations with the Danish clergy. Later in his life they were finally able to see eye to eye and upon his Golden Jubilation he was given the title of bishop.
We will be singing one of my favorite hymns for our hymn of the day, "Brightest and Best of the Stars" (MORNING STAR). It doesn't have any 'special' story tied to it other than it was written specially for Epiphany and first published in The Christian Observer in 1811. Maybe it's the soaring, melodic lines that appeal to me or the beautiful use of language that excites me but there is something about this hymn that feels like it's the perfect closer to the Christmas season.
One final note to update you on our "Tune Project". To date we have sung every Advent, Christmas and Epiphany tune in the hymnal! We are cooking with gas. Onward!