We have chosen LSB 395: O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright, as our seasonal hymn for Epiphanytide, AD 2022. During the Epiphany season, the Church recounts the glorious appearances and manifestations of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The season is thus often known as the season of light, recalling Jesus as the light of the world, which the darkness has not overcome (John 1:4-5, 8:12).
O Morning Star was written as a wedding hymn of the Church to her heavenly Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. The first stanza opens the hymn with words of adoration for Jesus, the Morning Star (Revelation 2:26-28, 22:16) eternally begotten of the Father, who humbled Himself by taking on our flesh, was born into the lineage of David, and suffered death on the Cross to atone for our sins. He rose again, defeating death, and now sits at the right hand of the Father, ruling over all (Psalm 110; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; Philippians 2:5-11). The second stanza continues by speaking to the mystical union of the Church and her Bridegroom (Ephesians 5:22-33), in Whose Body she lives and is given that very life that sustains her even though times of great distress. The third stanza speaks to the gifts bestowed on the Church by her Bridegroom; namely His very presence in His Word and Sacrament, bringing forgiveness, life and salvation. The fourth stanza reminds us that, in her Bridegroom, the Church and her members were chosen from before the foundation of the world to be ransomed by His blood, to live in Him now and into eternity (Ephesians 1:3-14), for which she returns her sacrifice of praise. The fifth stanza describes the jubilant response of the Church in music to Her Bridegroom, Christ, the King of Glory, who is with her all the way (Psalm 33:1-5; Ephesians 5:19). The sixth and final stanza speaks of the great joy of the Church in her Bridegroom, now and into eternity, knowing for certain that she will at the Last Day be taken to “that happy place beyond all tears and sinning” (Revelation 21:1-6).
This beautiful and powerful hymn was written by the Rev. Dr. Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608) during a time of plague, in which he lost 1400 of his parishioners in a seven-month period. Additionally, throughout his time in the Office of the Holy Ministry, Nicolai frequently experienced persecution for his strong defense of Biblical Truth. In spite of all he had suffered and was suffering, Pr. Nicolai knew that Jesus died to atone for his sins and rose again to declare him right with the Father (Romans 4:25). The faith gifted to him in his Heavenly Bridegroom was firm, and in full assurance of this faith, he experienced God’s heavenly joy even in the midst of tremendous hardship and suffering (Hebrews 10:19-25).
We experience our Lord’s epiphany to us throughout the year, as He comes to us when we gather for His Divine Services of Word and Sacrament (or simply of the Word). And yes, He continues to come to us during times of persecution, plague and other hardship, giving us assurance of our salvation and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet to come, which, try as they might, no one can take away (Romans 8:38-39). For this, we rejoice (Philippians 4:4)! We thank God for your presence today and pray His richest blessings on you as you receive His gifts in our midst.