Text: Gracia Grindal. Tune: Jane Southwick Cool
The unsearchable riches of Jesus
Lay hidden from our mortal sight,
For he came to us all as a baby
The babe we are drawn to this night.
Come, hear how the heavens are ringing;
The stars and the planets are singing
As pilgrims from near and from far
Have followed the Bethlehem star.
For the whole world is drawn to the infant
Where God has now come to abide
And to live as we live with each other.
The wise come to kneel at his side;
The wisdom God hid through the ages
Has drawn to his side eastern sages
To see what our God had revealed
In Jesus, the light of the world.
For Christ Jesus came down from the heavens
To show us that God is pure love.
For through him we are heirs of the Father
And rich in the treasures of God.
So kneel at his side, see the mystery
That changes the arc of all history
It makes all our mornings shine bright
To live with our Savior, the light.
Text: Gracia Grindal Copyright © 2015 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.
It was a moment. I was speaking with a recognized scholar of Scandinavian literature. Suddenly she stopped and said, What on earth is Epiphany? She pronounced it EP-i-phan-y. It startled me. How could someone be that learned, and not know something so fundamental to our church year, especially since much of the literature she studied was often very Christian. I spent a few moments trying to compose an answer that respected the questioner and the question, resisting the temptation to say, We’re having it now.
The question gave me a chance to do a little missionary work. To tell the story of the wisemen from the East following the star for a long and punishing journey into the west was a pleasure. As a typical intellectual of our time, she was, I knew, contemptuous of the Christian faith, although the little she knew of it made it hard for me to understand how she could have rejected something about which she had such limited knowledge. But that was the way of what Schleiermacher, the German theologian, called the "cultured despisers" of the faith.
She thought of me, a believer, as a throwback to the Dark Ages. So I just told the story and let it be, adding a couple sentences about it being the Orthodox Christmas.
But what a tale it is! Wisemen, scholars and sages from the East, being so drawn to the Star of Bethlehem, which their books could not explain to them, that they left everything to find the one it pointed to. They longed for wisdom and would do anything to find it.
We all know that kind of longing, but maybe have not been able to leave everything behind to find it. Would the scholars of today leave their comfortable offices and long tenure in search of this wisdom? Is anybody searching for wisdom today? Some people we know have spent their lives traveling in search of something they cannot really name but they hunger after it and are unable to rest until they find it.
I am probably one of five people alive today who have read Menoza, a three volume novel by Erik Pontoppidan, (1698-1764) the Danish bishop, who wrote the explanation to Luther’s Catechism that Norwegians and Norwegian Americans had to memorize in order to be confirmed. This novel is the story of an Eastern prince who starts looking for the truth, for God. And he begins by going to the centers of all the major religions of the world. He stops by the Danish mission in Tranquebar and gets some leads for where he should go in the West. Besides visiting the shrines of the Eastern religions and Mecca, he goes to Jerusalem, then Rome, Geneva, Canterbury, Wittenberg, and, if I remember correctly, finally ends up in Denmark at the church of a pious Lutheran pastor who has the truth. It makes me smile a bit, but I understand the search for Truth.
The Wisemen were on such a quest as they traveled to find the truth. We may have to travel to hear it and see it, but after the birth of Christ, who is Immanuel, God with us, he is wherever people meet in his name. As we begin the year in Jesus’ Name, we are simply asking that we be aware of his presence at all times as we live.
A Norwegian pastor in my acquaintance wrote about his own journey to find the place where he could meet God. He took off on his motorcycle to find him, a journey not much different from Pontoppidan’s Eastern Prince, only from West to East. He heard then of the place in the Andes mountains where one could go and experience God, and so, at great personal cost to himself, near death from the cold, being caught and held by warring parties in the battles between Ecuador and Peru, he found himself in the cold kneeling down near where he thought he would find it. He sang an old favorite hymn from his past, “Alltid Freidig når du går.”
Then he fell over laughing. (Spoiler alert) The hymn told him, and he realized at that moment, that Christ had been with him all the way, in every moment. He just hadn’t seen him. An Epiphany! Now that Jesus has come in the flesh, he is God with us and nothing can change that.
This is Epiphany—when the divinity of Jesus is revealed and we see in him the fullness of the Godhead who is now one with us. God of God, Light of Light. Come down to us in a manger as a helpless baby. Immanuel!
This hymn is something of a romp in the anapestic meter, which English finds to be childish and like a nursery rhyme. Here we go round the mulberry bush.... It felt good, however, to tell the story of Epiphany in such a meter. It has the feel of a dance, as Jane Southwick Cool captured in her music. The Ephesians text with its "unsearchable riches" sparked the anapest form. John Ylvisaker would get phrases from the Bible like that and hear their rhythms and meters, looking for tunes that fit it, then using the form of that tune to finish the text.
Alltid freidig når du går