Hymns & Songs

Christ, our glorious light

Jan 2015    

Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only light
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Day-spring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by Thee;
Joyless is the day’s return,
Till Thy mercy’s beams I see;
Till they inward light impart,
Cheer my eyes and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine;
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more Thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.

Text: Charles Wesley. Public Domain

If our congregational repertoire includes songs and hymns that narrate the gospel story, what should follow the lovely carols celebrating the birth of Christ?

Epiphany! The singing of Christmas carols ‘officially’ ends 6 Jan every year, which marks the feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany means “manifestation”. We sing about the manifestation of God in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.

We know that Epiphany is associated with the feast of the Three Kings. But there are three key stories in the Gospel proclaiming this manifestation of Jesus Christ: First, the visit of the Magi who by faith followed the star that led them to the stable where the Christ Child was born. Second, the miracle of water turned into wine at the wedding in Cana; and third, the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan where the voice of God was heard to say “Thou art My beloved Son”. These stories are among the gospel readings during the season of Epiphany.

Charles Wesley wrote this hymn, ‘Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies’, which he initially titled ‘Morning Hymn’. It is a hymn that is appropriate to use during Epiphany. The first stanza reveals the messianic metaphors for Christ:

• Christ, the true, the only light – “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” (John 1:9)
• Sun of Righteousness – Malachi 4:2
• Day Star – 2 Peter 1:19
The second stanza describes what the day would be like without Christ’s presence – cheerless and dark! The third stanza is our prayer for Christ to come fill us with His radiance.
This hymn is number 173 in The United Methodist Hymnal.

But I would like to suggest an alternate tune written by Matthew Smith, a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who sets old hymns to new tunes.

Smith titled the song ‘You are the Light’. He took the first stanza of the hymn and made it the chorus. He altered some words to avoid the archaic language. For example, on the second stanza, instead of “unaccompanied by Thee”, Smith changed the line to “without Your hand to comfort me”. The re-tuned hymn can be found at matthewsmith.bandcamp.com/track/you-are-the-light.

However, whether to sing the original tune or the alternate is secondary to understanding the meaning of the text and what is expected of us. What is it like for Christ to fill us with His radiance? What is it like for us to manifest this light in our lives? Perhaps these are questions we can ponder upon as we begin the year.

Judith Mosomos is Acting Director of Worship and Church Music at the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.

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