How Lovely Shines the Morning Star

An Epiphany Worship Service by Pastor Michael Zarling

An excerpt of the worship service:

One of the very finest hymns ever written is “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star,” Pastor Philip Nicolai’s masterpiece. Sadly, most hymnals do not provide a complete translation of this 16th century German hymn. The version we base tonight’s service upon provides all seven stanzas. These additional stanzas bring to light the clear references to the Lord’s Supper and the Means of Grace.

Philip Nicolai graduated in 1594 from the University of Wittenberg with a Doctorate Degree in Theology. He served as a Lutheran pastor in congregations in Germany. But, he is most remembered as a hymn writer. He was the author of two famous hymns: “Awake, Awake, the Night is Flying” and “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star.” These are sometimes referred to as the King and Queen of Chorales, respectively. These two chorales have inspired many composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach, who based two of his chorale cantatas on Nicolai’s hymns.

The tune for “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star” is such a masterpiece that this is written about it: “So popular did it soon become, that its tune was often chimed by city chimes, lines and verses from it were printed by way of ornament on the common earthenware of the country, and it was invariably used at weddings and certain festivals.”

The hymn originally was in seven ten-line stanzas and bore the title “A spiritual bridal song of the believing soul concerning Jesus Christ, her heavenly bridegroom, founded on the 45th Psalm of the prophet David.” Jesus says in Revelation 22:16 that He is the fulfillment of this heavenly bridegroom and the morning star: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

Processional Hymn: #79 — “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star”
As the hymn is introduced, please stand and face the processional cross in the back of the church, and turn to the front as the cross passes you. 

  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.
    Lowly, Holy,
    Great and glorious, Thou victorious
    Prince of graces,
    Filling all the heavenly places.
  1. O highest joy by mortals won,
    True Son of God and Mary’s Son,
    Thou high-born King of ages!
    Thou art my heart’s most beauteous Flower,
    And Thy blest Gospel’s saving power
    My raptured soul engages.
    Thou mine, I Thine;
    Sing hosanna! Heavenly manna
    Tasting, eating,
    Whilst Thy love in songs repeating. 

Note: The singing stops here.  The music continues in the background as we begin to alternate between responsive readings and singing of the remaining hymn verses.

Minister: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
Congregation: To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father– to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Rev 1:4-6)

M: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; (Is 9:2)
C: on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

M: See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,
C: but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. (Is 60:2)

M: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it.
C: We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:5,14)

  1. 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.
    Sighing, Crying.
    For the savor of Thy favour;
    Resting never,
    Till I rest in Thee forever.

M: For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given. (Is 9:6)
C: In him was life, and the life was the light of man. (Jn 1:4)

M: God of Glory, you sent Jesus among us as the light to the world, to reveal your love for all people. But wherever there is light, there will also be darkness.
C: We confess that we are sinful creatures who, either through foolishness or willful disobedience, often choose to dwell in the darkness instead of live in your light. We beg for forgiveness for starving ourselves of your Son’s life-giving light. We repent of our entrenched evil that hates the light and tries to dispose of it. We admit our apathy towards sanctification and renewal that cause us to continue to live in the night. Trusting your grace, we earnestly pray: “Create in us a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within us.” Through Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen. (Ps 51:10)

  1. 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.
    Keep me kindly
    In Thy favour, o my Saviour!
    Thou wilt cheer me;
    Thy Word calls me to draw near Thee.

M: Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. (Is 60:1) The Light comes not to sear and blind us but to save us. Christ Jesus came into this world as an infant in a Bethlehem manger so that he might die as our Savior on a Roman cross in Jerusalem. For his sake, God forgives us all our sins. Therefore, as a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by his authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
C: Amen.

M: If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,
C: and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 Jn 1:7)

M: You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Pet 2:9)

  1. 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.
    What bliss is this!
    He that liveth to me giveth
    Life forever;
    Nothing me from Him can sever.

Old Testament: Psalm 45 The Wedding of the Victorious King


Click here to download the entire worship service (it’s free!): How Lovely Shines the Morning Star

Thank you Pastor Zarling for sharing!