Epiphany Hymns and their Story
February 14, 2023

“Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning”

Reginald Heber [1783-1826], and Anglican clergyman, served for 16 years before being named and appointed Bishop of Calcutta.  He tried to write a hymn text for every Sunday and major festival of the Church year based on [most usually] the Gospel reading.  “Brightest and Best” originally appeared under the simple title, “Epiphany”.   After his death, in a way to memorialize his work and ministry, it was re-named to the title as we have it today.

Heber’s identical 1st and 5th verses constitute a prayer that our darkness might be illuminated.  Some falsely thought he was telling his people to worship a star - that foolish/evil rumor was quickly put down into the abys where belonged.  The verse resonates so beautifully, as it tells us of the star that led the Magi to Jesus.  And then, it also tells of the brightest star of the morning - Jesus, Himself - the “bright morning star” [Revelation 22:16].
The odors of Edom, has also brought some controversy, again, un-needed.  Edom was home to the descendants of Esau, historic enemies of Israel.  Edom was would have been a natural stopping point for travelers, who would have purchased the spices that would have been burned in homes, tabernacles, and any type of worship.  
Verse 4 reminds us that we cannot adequately acknowledge all God has done for us.  His grace is un-merited and he reminds us that we “vainly offer” our praise.  “The heart’s adoration”, and “the prayers of the poor”, though offered from sinners, are still a wonderful offering to our Lord and God; when offered from a “contrite heart” [Psalm 51:17].   

1 Brightest and best of the stars of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

LSB 400

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