As we endure the extremely cold weather that reminds me daily of the Christmas hymn In the Bleak Midwinter, we have left Advent hymns for another year and are moving quickly towards the season of Epiphany, starting on January 6, when we remember that Jesus came to all people. Like Advent hymns and Christmas carols, I find the Epiphany hymns tend to foreshadow his ministry and death, so that even as we sing

“Star of wonder, star of night,
“Star with royal beauty bright,
“Westward leading,still proceeding,
” Guide us to thy perfect light.”

We know that soon the verse will be

“Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
“Breathes a life of gathering gloom,
“Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
“Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.”

Our priest Gayle returned recently from a tour of the Holy Land, bringing with her healing oil containing myrrh. A bitter perfume indeed, and one that lingers, it was the first time I have encountered it.

We are so accustomed to carols and manger scenes that include the Magi that it’s easy to forget that by the time of their arrival Jesus was two or three years old and presumably no longer using a manger for his bed, but I do find it disquieting to be reminded of all that awaits him. So the final verse reminds us,

“Glorious now behold him arise,
“King and God and sacrifice,
“Alleluia, alleluia,
“Earth to heaven replies.”

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