Epiphany Hymns and their Story
February 09, 2023

“As with Gladness Men of Old”

In 1859, when he was 21 years old, William Chatterton Dix [1837-98] was recovering from a fairly serious illness.  On the day of the Epiphany, he read the Gospel from Matthew 2:1-12. Which of the account of the visit of the Magi.  He then sat down and wrote this hymn, finishing, amazingly, that evening.  He wrote that, as the Wise men were led by a star, God led him by this sickness to His Epiphany Lord and His Gospel.  

The first three verses are carefully constructed with the poetic balance of “as” and “so”, mirroring the past scriptural event with the present desired result: “As with gladness men of old ... as with joy they hailed its light ... so, most gracious Lord, evermore led by Thee.”  Just as the Magi we led, may we also be led.  In verse three, as the men of wisdom humbly offered gifts, so we also desire to bring the best, like Abel, and make offerings for our King’s use.

The last two verses pray that all Christians [including those singing the hymn], would be kept on life’s journey in the “narrow way”; the way that leads to eternal life.   The final verse rejoices in praise and confident adoration in the light of the King, the child King one born, Lord of eternity, worthy of alleluias forever.  

As with gladness men of old, did the guiding star behold;
As with joy they hailed it’s light, leading onward, beaming bright;
So, most gracious Lord, may we evermore be led by Thee.

LSB 397

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