In this recording, the Mount Hope Lutheran School choir sings “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star” by Philipp Nicolai. To download the recording, click the three dots on the player.
Philipp Nicolai was a Lutheran pastor in Unna, Germany, and in the late 16th century a terrible plague swept through, killing over 1,400 people of the town. In the midst of death, he comforted himself with the Scriptures and delighted in the joy of eternal life. The fruit of his meditations was a book titled “Mirror of Joy,” to which he appended several hymns, among them “Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying” and “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star.” He wrote both the text and the tunes of these hymns, and they are known respectively as the King and Queen of the Chorales. A certain wonder comes upon us when we consider that he wrote these hymns in the midst of six months of non-stop funerals.
This is how Nicolai began “Mirror of Joy”:
As often as I call to mind the surpassing comfort of the promise of eternal life in our heavenly home, my heart bursts out with joy, and my soul rejoices in God my Savior. Oh, think of it, there we believing Christians will behold with joyful eyes, the almighty King of glory, our only Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ, who for us trampled the ancient serpent. There, we will gather with the holy patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, and there we will see again with overflowing joy those we loved on earth, father, mother, brothers, and sisters, husband and wife, children, and all our acquaintances who have blessedly fallen asleep in the Lord and have gone before us in the true faith. There, God will wipe away all tears from our eyes, and He will transform our mourning into dancing. He will clothe us with joy so that our hearts rejoice for all eternity, and this awesome joy no one can ever take from us. There we will enter into the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. We will be brought into the company of many thousands of angels and to the assembly of the first born who are written in heaven, and in that place, joy will simply overwhelm us as we contemplate the awesome gifts that our God has bestowed on us. To think that heaven should be ours, that everything which Christ has is now our imperishable heavenly treasure. God Himself will be our very great reward, our temple, our light, and our awe. Why would we trade all the world’s perishable splendor, honor, joy, and glory for what God has in store for us? Our future is that we will see and laugh together with the holy angels. Indeed, the entire heavenly host will call us blessed because we believed in Jesus Christ and trusted His unfailing word even today.Translated in “Giving Thanks in Times of Adversity and Strife” by Rev. Will Weedon, in Journal of Lutheran Mission, Feb. 2015
How Lovely Shines the Morning Star
1 How lovely shines the Morning Star!
The nations see and hail afar
The light in Judah shining.
Thou David’s Son of Jacob’s race,
My Bridegroom and my King of Grace,
For Thee my heart is pining.
Great and glorious,
Prince of graces,
Filling all the heav’nly places.
2 O highest joy by mortals won,
True Son of God and Mary’s Son,
Thou highborn King of ages!
Thou art my heart’s most beauteous Flow’r
And Thy blest Gospel’s saving pow’r
My raptured soul engages.
Whilst Thy love in songs repeating.
3 Now richly to my waiting heart,
O Thou, my God, deign to impart
The grace of love undying.
In Thy blest body let me be,
E’en as the branch is in the tree,
Thy life my life supplying.
For the savor
Of Thy favor;
Till I rest in Thee forever.
4 A pledge of peace from God I see
When Thy pure eyes are turned to me
To show me Thy good pleasure.
Jesus, Thy Spirit and Thy Word,
Thy body and Thy blood, afford
My soul its dearest treasure.
In Thy favor,
O my Savior!
Thou wilt cheer me;
Thy Word calls me to draw near Thee.
5 Thou, mighty Father, in Thy Son
Didst love me ere Thou hadst begun
This ancient world’s foundation.
Thy Son hath made a friend of me,
And when in spirit Him I see,
I joy in tribulation.
He that liveth
To me giveth
Nothing me from Him can sever.
6 Lift up the voice and strike the string,
Let all glad sounds of music ring
In God’s high praises blended.
Christ will be with me all the way,
Today, tomorrow, every day,
Till traveling days be ended.
Praise the God of your salvation.
7 Oh, joy to know that Thou, my Friend,
Art Lord, Beginning without end,
The First and Last, eternal!
And Thou at length-O glorious grace!-
Wilt take me to that holy place,
The home of joys supernal.
Come and meet me!
Quickly greet me!
With deep yearning,
Lord, I look for Thy returning.