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Music for the Epiphany of Our Lord

Your Son has ransomed us in love   The HYMN OF THE DAY, “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” (395), is known as the “Queen of Chorales,” second only to “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying” (516), the “King of Chorales.”  Both are written by Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608), a German pastor who endured much hardship throughout his ministry.  He was forced to leave several of his pastorates due to his ardent defense of confessional Lutheran doctrine, as he battled both Romanists and the Reformed in his support of biblical teaching.  A plague claiming the lives of 1400 people in Unna, where he served as pastor, caused him to publish a collection of hymns Frewden-Spiegel dess Ewigen Lebens in 1599, which included both “Wake, Awake” and “O Morning Star.”  His last seven years were spent as pastor in St. Katherine’s in Hamburg, where he was appreciated for his being a gifted poet, composer, and preacher until his death on October 26, 1608.

“Both hymns of Philipp Nicolai must be numbered among the gems of the hymnal.  Their style of diction, poetic structure, and grand tunes are nothing short of the unique and sublime” (Fred L. Precht, Lutheran Worship: Hymnal Companion).

“O Morning Star” is based on Psalm 45, and includes the “Morning Star” of Revelation 22.16 in its first line.  The tune is adapted by Nicolai from a setting of Psalm 100 from the Strasbourg Psalter of 1538.

This tune has served as the inspiration for countless musical settings from older to modern.  Tonight we will hear the multi-movement setting of Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) as the PRELUDE, and a setting by Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782) as the introduction to the hymn.  The choral settings of stanzas three and five are by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621). The organ settings of stanzas four and six are settings by S. Drummond Wolff (1916-2004).

The lessons are Isaiah 60.1-6; Ephesians 3.1-12; and St. Matthew 2.1-12.

The hymns are: 397 – 382 – 395 – 399 – 888 – 396

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