Epiphany Hymns and Their Story

“Arise and Shine in Splendor”

The text “Brich Auf, und Werde Lichte” [I love writing out the German] was first published in 1628.  Martin Opitz [1597-1639] designated the hymn for Three Kings Day and gave Isaiah 60 as a Biblical reference [the Old Testament reading for Epiphany among 17th century Lutherans.   It was written to be a “sung prayer”, lamenting the offenses of the present age in which he lived, especially the chaos of the 30 years war which was still taking place.       
The Christian church is the addressee of this hymn.  The people of God are themselves in need of light, yet they also become those who shine forth the Light of Christ to the world [Isaiah 60:1].  Light as the image of the glory of God is the theme of the hymn, each verse of which is a paraphrase from Isaiah 60:1-6.
The light depicted here is not merely a brightness from the sun, nor is it an unbearable light and heat, as from a summer day.  He contrasts such a view of the scorching sun with the inviting, refreshing glory of God.
The sun, which does nothing to ease the weariness of sinful nations, gives way to the rejuvenating, joyful light of God that breaks forth over the people of the earth.  Jesus is the glory to which the nations come, riding on camels, bringing gold and frankincense [Isaiah 60:6; Matthew 2:1-12].   Only the splendor of God being born as a child brings refreshment and life and not fear and burden.
Against the darkness and chaos, God first spoke, “Let there be light”.  After the fall into sin, mankind lived in darkness.  We needed to be set free by the rising of this new light of Christ in His birth and Epiphany.
The sun, which at creation governed the day and marked times and season, will become obsolete in heaven, where God Himself is the light for the nations.  

Arise and shine in splendor; let night to day surrender.
Your light is drawing near, above the day is beaming,
In matchless beauty gleaming; the glory of the Lord is here.

LSB 396

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