The seasonal hymn chosen for this year’s brief Epiphanytide is LSB 401: From God the Father, Virgin-Born. This hymn is at least 1,000 years old, and was originally written in Latin, in acrostic form, namely with lines beginning with successive letters of the alphabet (much like several of the Hebrew Psalms). The Gospel texts during this portion of the Church Year point to various epiphanies, or manifestations of Jesus, and this hymn beautifully summarizes the underlying message conveyed through each of these.
In the first two stanzas, we sing of our Lord Jesus coming down from heaven to be born of the Virgin Mary, to die on the Cross to forgive our sins, and rise again to declare us right with the Father, and restore the fallen creation (John 1:1,14; Philippians 2:6-8; Romans 4:25, 8:19-21). Additionally, we recall the Baptism of our Lord, at which He took on the sin of the world, foreshadowed His own death, and sanctified the water of Baptism through which He washes away our sin and re-births us from above (Matthew 3:13-17 and parallels; John 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21). The 3rd stanza reminds us of Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, risen with healing in His wing (Malachi 4:2; LSB 380.3); leading His people from darkness to the clarity of His Light (Luke 4:18; John 1:4-5, 8:12; Acts 26:17-18); note that Epiphany is often known as the Season of Light. In the 4th stanza, we urge our Lord to remain with us, as did the men at Emmaus (Luke 24:29), and apply His work of healing specifically on us, taking away the stain of our sin and bringing us from our darkness to His light. We pray this with confidence, knowing that, as He remained at Emmaus, making Himself known to the men in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-31), He has promised to remain with us, calling and gathering us to receive His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation, nourishing us through His Word and Supper (Matthew 26:26-28 and parallels; John 20:22-23; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). In the 5th stanza, we confidently confess His final coming (Matthew 25:31; Luke 21:27 and parallels; Revelation 22:6-20), and pray again His ongoing presence among us, to shield us from the attacks of the evil one as for now we remain in this fallen world (Revelation 12:17). Again, we pray confidently, knowing that He has promised so to do (Isaiah 41:10). During this time of pandemic and unrest, we are free to take comfort in these words! The sixth stanza fittingly closes the hymn in a Trinitarian doxology, as we return our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to our Triune God for all He has done, is doing and will do for us, preparing to sing of Him into eternity (Revelation 5:13)!
Typically, From God the Father, Virgin-Born is sung as Chief Hymn on Epiphany 3, to support the Mathew 8:1-13 Gospel reading in which we hear of Jesus’ healing the leper and the centurion’s servant. In this year’s truncated Epiphany season, we will not be observing Epiphany 3. This hymn, though, was originally written as an Office hymn for the Feast of the Epiphany, and its words are appropriate for the entire season. We are thankful that you are here today to receive God’s healing gifts in our midst and pray God’s blessings on you during this, the Season of His Light, and throughout the year!