One of the things I quite enjoy about the Book of Common Praise 2017, or as its latest edition is named, Magnify the Lord, is that it has a number of contemporary songs and hymns. Yes, contemporary hymns too. Hymn #87, in the Epiphany section, was written by Cynthia Erlandson in 1997. Like the older classic Songs of thankfulness and praise, this new hymn outlines the Gospel themes of the traditional Epiphanytide, and does so brilliantly.
On this clear night, led by a star much brighter than the rest,
Wise Gentiles travel west to see God’s Wisdom manifest:
Emmanuel has come to earth in human vesture dressed.
Incense and gold they give to him, the King whom Herod fears,
To those who see the Light of lights, salvation now appears,
Ordained before all times until the fullness of the years.
The boy Messiah’s wisdom in the temple soon is heard,
The wond’ring scribes astonished by God’s flesh-encompassed Word,
More powerful, more piercing than a soul-dividing sword.
In Jordan, God’s beloved Son fulfills all righteousness,
Baptized by John, the prophet, crying in the wilderness,
“Prepare a highway for our God, the way of holiness.”
Thus marked, the Groom-to-be as guest performs a wondrous sign:
At wedding feast, the Word-made-flesh turns water into wine,
The best has been withheld till now: the fruit of Christ the Vine.
To one born blind, the world’s true Light reveals a radiant sight:
The vision of his kingdom, coming into earth’s dark night.
Unto his saints, once blind to Truth, the healer shows his might.
Unto the Father, Son, and Spirit, Holy Trinity,
The Three in One, the one and only glorious Deity,
All praise and honor be for Jesus’ great epiphany. Amen.
This is set to the tune MORNING SONG, which is better known for the text Awake, awake, to love and work.
The poetry of Mrs. Erlandson’s lyrics are striking, often matching similar names and titles for Jesus in the first and second lines of a given verse. Several of them are hyphenated, or at least multi-word titles, drawing from the rich treasures of biblical language to expound our Savior in the various epiphany gospel stories recounted here. The best poems, lyrics, and songs are really just sermons in artistic format, and this one definitely fits the bill.
If you want to see what else she has written, I would point you to the book The Slumbering Host, which is just now being released from Little Gidding Press. I had a small role in wrangling the typesetting and formatting of this book, and would be very happy to see the fame of its many poet-contributors spread abroad. You’ll find that Mrs. Erlandson’s contribution to this book is of a similar style to this epiphany hymn: another poem that explores a foundational Christian doctrine sequentially in three-line stanzas.
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