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HYMN FOR EPIPHANY Bright and Glorious is the Sky/Deilig er den Himmel Blå

Updated: Jan 5

Text: Nicolai Frederik Severen Grundtvig (1783-1872) Tune: Jacob Gerhard Meidell (1778-1857

Adoration of the Magi Gentile daFabriano

1. Bright and glorious is the sky,

With the sparkling stars on high,

How they glitter, brightly gleaming,

How they twinkle, gladly beaming,

As they draw our hearts to heav’n,

As they draw our hearts to heav’n.


2. In the midst of Christmas night,

While the stars were shining bright,

Suddenly, so clear and radiant

One appeared and shone resplendent

With the luster of the sun,

With the luster of the sun.


3. Long ago it was foretold

By God’s chosen men of old

When at midnight such a wonder

Would appear in heaven yonder

And a Savior King be born

And a Savior King be born.


4. Wisemen by this star were led

To the Christ child’s lowly bed,

Guiding star, O may we heed thee

Follow where your light is leading,

Leading to our heavenly King

Leading to our heavenly King.


5. Christ they found in Bethlehem,

There without a diadem,

Only Mary meek and lowly

With her baby pure and holy,

Resting in her loving arms,

Resitng in her loving arms.


6. In his word, God did provide

Such a star to be our guide.

Holy Scripture, God’s own story

Does reveal to us the glory

Leading us to Christ our Lord

Leading us to Christ our Lord.

Tr. comp.

Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi, mid-15th century


Epiphany, January 6, the Twelfth day of Christmas, or, in the orthodox tradition, Christmas itself, shows us the Christ child attracting the interest and worship of all the world. The Magi, students of the movements of the stars, had seen something in the skies that utterly changed them. The portent was so strong they left everything behind to follow the star. Their religion made them do it—they believed that the gods were in the stars and planets they saw wheeling above them in the night. So they left their homes for a hard and bitter journey into the unknown.


One can make a parable of this as a parable of the Christian life. We are in darkness and suddenly a light, the Light of the World, moves us and we leave everything behind to follow it.


Matthew, however, is also interested in a more literal point. Here we have the Magi—astrologers, students of magical powers in the skies--following a light they understood to be a sign in their religion. They know it means something, but what, they do not know. They are inquirers. God, however, used their religious understanding to draw them to the Christ child.


When they finally arrive, they go to the royalty there—King Herod and his scholars—and ask them where the king might be. Herod asks his scholars to search out where. They study Scripture which then tells them Bethlehem. So they leave to find him, aware the Herod is not really interested in worshiping this king, a threat to his throne, but in killing him.


So they go home by another way. Once again, a parable of the Christian life. After we find Christ, everything is new.


We should also note in the story that the magi’s religion cannot lead them to the Christ child, only close. They need Scripture to teach them exactly where and who. Even Herod needs it to find the baby for evil purposes. The scholars discover in Scripture where he will be born and those words guide them both to Bethlehem.


The religions around Israel saw in the heavens gods to worship. The Bible knows this and is very careful to always make clear that the stars and planets, if named, point to the God above all Gods. In the creation account, the sun and moon are not named but referred to as the greater and lesser lights. (Genesis 1:16)


At the same time we should rejoice that God can use anything, even the religion of the Magi, to bring people to kneel beside the cradle of our Lord Jesus Christ! As Grundtvig has it in his great Epiphany hymn “Holy Scripture, God’s own story/Does reveal to us the glory/Leading us to Christ our Lord!” Amen.



N. F. S. Grundtvig

This was Grundtvig's first hymn. He wrote it around 1810 between a manic and depressive stage. The original had 19 stanzas, but he shortened it to seven, most of which we have in English. It was considered a children’s song, written to teach them about the Wisemen. Grundtvig had criticized the hymnal of Denmark at the time for being brackish and not the fresh running brook of the Gospel. He wanted hymns that preached the Gospel. This hymn really is a harbinger of what he will do for the rest of his life. It was first published as a hymn in 1832 in a hymnal for children, Historiske Psalmer og Riim for Børne Lærdom by L. C. Hagen. It has been obligatory in every Danish and Norwegian hymnal for many years and now American Lutheran hymnals.


The tune that is the most popular—although there are several associated with the text—comes from Jakob Meidell, a sea captain, born in Balestrand, Norway, but who spent his adult life in Denmark. It was originally thought to be a folk tune, but now it is attributed to Meidell who apparently wrote no other music.


Harpist with English Lyrics


Danish Girls’ Choir


Icelandic Children's Choir


Akademisk Kor Aarhus


Bo Holten’s Choir


Iver Kleive, Povl Dissing, Knut Reiersrud







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