An Epiphany Hymn (#48) Devotion for 19 January 2021 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion World (for 3rd Sunday after Epiphany)
2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. 3 Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. Micah 5:2-3
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Matthew 2:1-6
The 1940 Hymnal provides a sort of lectionary of hymns to meet the spirit of the seasons of the Church. Today’s hymn is one such found in the 1940 Hymnal. It celebrates the awakening of the Gentiles to the Coming Lord in the persons of the Magi who traversed desert sands, mountain gullies, river torrents, and hostile tribes on their long journey to Bethlehem.
Many modern churches do not observe the programmed study of biblical revelation given in the lectionary – they do not emphasize church seasons which depict, in chronology and historical perspective, the promises and realization of the Gospel from Genesis to Revelations. The coming of the wise men is mingled with the night of the birth of our Lords, but wrongly so. The visitation of the wise men came months later when the baby Jesus was ensconced in a permanent dwelling. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11
This ancient hymn, written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413 A.D.), was a Roman governor in northern Spain who came to know Christ as His Lord and Savior. The tune, STUTTGART, was the work of the German composer, Christian F. Witt (b. Altenburg, Germany, e. 1660; d. Altenburg, 1716) was an editor of the musical score.
EARTH HAS MANY A NOBLE CITY
1 Earth has many a noble city;
Bethl’hem, thou dost all excel:
out of thee the Lord from heaven
came to rule his Israel.
2 Fairer than the sun at morning
was the star that told his birth,
to the world its God announcing
seen in fleshly form on earth.
3 Eastern sages at his cradle
make oblations rich and rare;
see them give in deep devotion,
gold and frankincense and myrrh.
4 Sacred gifts of mystic meaning:
incense doth their God disclose,
gold the King of kings proclaimeth,
myrrh his sepulcher foreshows.
5 Jesu, whom the Gentiles worshipped
at thy glad Epiphany,
unto thee with God the Father
and the Spirit glory be.
1 Earth has many a noble city; Bethl’hem, thou dost all excel: out of thee the Lord from heaven
came to rule his Israel. In the economy of God’s Kingdom, physical size is non-consequential to greatness. David slew Goliath who was armed to the teeth and almost ten times larger than David. Gideon’s tiny army of three hundred defeated a force of 120,00o without suffering a single casualty. Bethlehem was a village hamlet of no economic or political significance, yet, God chose that little village as the venue for His only Begotten Son to be born. It was the city of Naomi, ruth, and Boaz; the City of David’s birth, and the city of Rachel’s passing and burial. But the glittering world cared little for those distinctions. Out of sorrow is born joy; and out of hopelessness the Lord makes to glory.
2 Fairer than the sun at morning was the star that told his birth, to the world its God announcing
seen in fleshly form on earth. The Morning Star was not BRIGHTER than the Sun, but fairer. In actuality, the two were the same. The first was the Star of coming hope and promise – the second is the realization of those two pledges. (see Malachi 4:2 and Revelations 22:16) The Laws of Nature, and of Nature’s God, are subject to the Law-Giver. He may miraculously suspend or annul at His discretion. The Star of Bethlehem was not some anomaly of gravitational imbalance – it was a specially created heavenly light designed to make a Royal Proclamation much like the Angels that appeared to the lowly shepherds.
3 Eastern sages at his cradle make oblations rich and rare; see them give in deep devotion, gold and frankincense and myrrh. The wise men, we know not how many, brought three symbolic gifts to the Christ Child – Gold (symbolizing royalty); frankincense (symbolizing worship); and Myrrh (symbolizing suffering and sacrifice). You will note that The baby Jesus was no longer in a manger or a stable, but in permanent quarters: “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Mary, the mother of Jesus, was present with the child, but the wise men did not worship Mary regardless of her high calling in God as the Virgin of His birth – they worshipped the child alone.
4 Sacred gifts of mystic meaning: incense doth their God disclose, gold the King of kings proclaimeth, myrrh his sepulcher foreshows. This verse clarifies the meaning of the gifts explained in the previous verse. The same resource from which His manger was composed would be the same upon which He gave His last drop of blood to redeem us – a cruel cross!
5 Jesu, whom the Gentiles worshipped at thy glad Epiphany, unto thee with God the Father and the Spirit glory be. How came the Wise Men to know to follow the Star? All wise men and women, boys and girls, will know from the urging of the Holy Ghost in the secret chambers of their hearts to follow the Star – the Morning Star of the Father’s only Begotten Son. By the way, our Lord is not the ‘one and only Son’ as averred in the NIV and ESV corrupted bibles (and many other modern monstrosities), He is the only BEGOTTEN Son which distinguishes Him as having the divine nature of His Father unlike we, the sons and daughters by way of adoption. So, we see that Christ came first to His own – those of the physical lineage of Abraham (shepherds on the hills overlooking sleepy Bethlehem), and then to the Gentiles (Wise Men) who had come to know the ancient prophecy of the coming birth of our Lord through diligent and scholarly study. This is the meaning of the Epiphany Season we observe in the church Calendar.