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WS Hymn 717 “Bright and Glorious Is the Sky”


It was on the second day of creation that God made the expanse of the sky, and since then He has used it from time to time as something of a billboard for important announcements. Abraham, for example, was told to look up into the sky for confirmation of the promise God was giving him (Genesis 15:5). There were the Christmas angels who appeared in the sky, announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. Now we come to Epiphany, where the sky again plays a role, hosting the famous “star in the east” which started the wise men off on their journey to find the King of the Jews.

The opening verse of the Danish-Lutheran pastor Nicolai Grundtvig’s (1783-1872) hymn, “Bright and Glorious Is the Sky” turns our attention skyward as well, Where the golden stars are shining, / All their rays to earth inclining (v. 1). Our thoughts fly heavenward as they beckon us.

God certainly got the attention of the wise men, too, and they got the message that the long-promised Messiah had appeared on earth. So they Went to find the king of nations / And to offer their oblations / Unto Him as Lord and King (v. 2). But why? Why would they care about a Jewish baby in little Bethlehem? They cared because they had been led by the Spirit to believe that He was their Lord and King. That’s why we care about this Child, too. He is our King also. Not a King who rules over us with an iron fist, not an angry judge who bends us to His will by force with threats and punishments, but a King who comes to lay down His very life for us—a King who saves us from our sins.

It truly was no ordinary King that the wise men found in Bethlehem. But Jesus was not out of the ordinary because He was so grand and awe-inspiring. Instead, He was out of the ordinary because He was so much the opposite. The wise men found this King humble and lowly, taking on the form of a servant, coming not to serve Himself, but to serve us. Him they found in Bethlehem, / Yet He wore no diadem; / They but saw a maiden lowly / With an infant pure and holy / Resting in her loving arms (v. 3).

Yes, they found Him—but can we? The magi had a star to guide them, but do we? How are we drawn to the King? Grundtvig tells this in the fourth and fifth stanzas. These verses form the climax of the hymn text and bring the main application home to us. The fact is, We too have a star to guide us / Which forever will provide us / With the light to find our Lord (v. 4).

As a star, God’s holy Word / Leads us to our King and Lord; / Brightly from its sacred pages / Shall this light throughout the ages / Shine upon our path of life (v. 5). Indeed, it is the Word of God that leads us to our Savior! The Word is a lamp for our feet and the light for our path (Psalm 119:105) that brings us to the King. This Word is always there for us, eternal and unchanging, drawing us to Christ Jesus and the forgiveness and peace He gives to us. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the Word of the Lord will never pass away (Matthew 24:35). May it ever be God’s instrument to lead peoples of all nations to Christ.

David Schaller is pastor of Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sister Lakes, Michigan. He also prepares the ‘Bread of Life’ devotions for the Lutheran Spokesman.