Friday, January 13, 2017

Favorite Lutheran Epiphany hymns

Last Tuesday, the listeners of Issues Etc. answered an open call for their favorite Epiphany hymns. Host Todd Wilken hosted a 56 minute session with the various listener comments.

As Pastor Wilken noted, Epiphany has three roles in the liturgical year
  • The eponymous feast, commemorating the visitation of the Magi, representing more broadly the expansion of the mission of the Church to reach the Gentiles.
  • The transition between Christmas and Lent (which IMHO is more about Christmas at the beginning and explicitly pre-Lent at the end)
  • The home of specific feasts, such as the Baptism of our Lord and (for Lutherans) the Feast of the Transfiguration
As with other shows, the audience was primarily (if not entirely) Lutheran — and thus the votes represent a LCMS audience (presumably picking their hymns from the Lutheran Service Book or The Lutheran Hymnal).

The two most popular choices (with four votes each) were the first two Epiphany hymns in the LSB:
  • “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise” (LSB: 394; TLH: 134; H40: 53): text by Christopher Wordsworth. In the LCMS hymnals they use a St. George by 19th century English organist George Elvey. However, the Anglicans (ironically) use Salzburg, written by 17th century German Protestant composer Jacob Hintze (working for the Calvinist Great Elector of Brandenburg) and harmonized the great Lutheran Kapellmeister — J.S. Bach himself.
  • “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” (LSB: 395), with text and tune by 16th century Lutheran pastor Philip Nicolai. The earlier translations were “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star” (TLH: 343) and "How Bright Appears the Morning Star” (H40: 329),
Other hymns from the Epiphany section of the LSB that were mentioned (and would be familiar to Anglicans) were As with Gladness Men of Old (LSB: 397, TLH: 127; H40: 52), Hail to the Lord's Anointed (LSB: 398; TLH: 59; H40: 545) and Brightest and Best of the Sons* of the Morning (LSB: 400, TLH: 128; H40: 46).

Note that for the latest hymnal for the “conservative” LCMS, the title phrase “Sons of the Morning” in Reginald Heber’s 1811 text was inexplicably changed to politically correct "Stars of the Morning" in the LSB.

As was true seven years earlier, the German Lutherans (and their hymnals) omit two of our favorite Anglican hymns for the season: “What star is this, with beams so bright” (H40 #47) and “Earth has many a noble city” (H40 #48).

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