Sermon

From Darkness into Light

Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021

 

Epiphany Sunday 
January 3, 2021
Rev. Dr. Ambury Stuart
Eleanor Daley, Director of Music
Baritone – Giles Tomkins
Pianist – Kate Tremills

 

 

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-16
Reader: Derek Wishart

 

Prelude The Three Kings           Peter Cornelius (1824-1874)
Baritone – Giles Tomkins
Piano – Kate Tremills

Three kings from Persian lands afar
To Jordan follow the pointing star:
And this the quest of the travellers three,
Where the new-born King of the Jews may be.
Full royal gifts they bear for the King;
Gold, incense, myrrh are their offering.

The star shines out with a steadfast ray;
The Kings to Bethlehem make their way,
And there in worship they bend the knee,
As Mary’s child in her lap they see;
Their royal gifts they show to the King;
Gold, incense, myrrh are their offering.

Thou child of man, lo, to Bethlehem
The Kings are travelling, travel with them!
The star of mercy, the star of grace,
Shall lead thy heart to its resting place,
Gold, incense, myrrh thou canst not bring,
Offer thy heart to the infant King,
Offer thy heart!
(H. N. Tate)

 

Opening Carol As with Gladness Men of Old           

As with gladness men of old
Did the guiding star behold,
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright,
So, most gracious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to thee.

As with joyful steps they sped,
To that lowly manger bed,
There to bend the knee before
Him whom heaven and earth adore,
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek thy mercy-seat.

As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare,
So may we with holy joy,
Pure, and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to thee our heavenly King.

Holy Jesu, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright
Need they no created light;
Thou its light, its joy, its crown,
Thou its sun which goes not down:
There for ever may we sing
Alleluias to our King.
(William Chatteron Dix, 1837-1898)

 

Anthem A New Year Carol              Chris Williams
Amadeus Choir
Lydia Adams – Artistic Director and Conductor

Here we bring new water from the well so clear,
For to worship God with this happy New Year.

Sing levy dew, the water and the wine;
The seven bright gold wires
And the bugles that do shine.

Sing reign of Fair Maid, with gold upon her toe,
Open you the West Door and turn the Old Year go.

Sing levy dew, the water and the wine;
The seven bright gold wires
And the bugles that do shine.

Sing reign of Fair Maid, with gold upon her chin,
Open you the East Door and let the New Year in.

Sing levy dew, the water and the wine;
The seven bright gold wires
And the bugles that do shine.
(Anon.)

 

Carol We Three Kings of Orient Are           arr. Martin Neary (b. 1940)

We three kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts, we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star:

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
Gold I bring, to crown him again–
King for ever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign:

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Frankincense to offer have I,
Incense owns a deity nigh:
Prayer and praising, all men raising,
Worship him, God most high:

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb:

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Glorious now, behold him arise,
King, and God, and sacrifice!
Heav’n sings alleluia,
Alleluia the earth replies:

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.
(John Henry Hopkins Jr., 1820-1891)

 

Anthem I Said to the Man Who Stood at the Gate of the Year           William H. Harris (1883-1973)

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness
and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than a light,
and safer than a known way!”
(Minnie Louise Haskins, 1875-1957)

 

Closing Carol The First Nowell           arr. David Willcocks (1919-2015)

The first Nowell the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay, keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep:
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel!

They lookèd up and saw a star,
Shining in the east beyond them far;
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night:
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel!

And by the light of that same star,
Three wise men came from country far;
To seek for a king was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went:
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel!

This star drew nigh to the north-west;
O’er Bethlehem it took its rest,
And there it did both stop and stay
Right over the place where Jesus lay:
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel!

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heav’nly Lord,
That hath made heav’n and earth of nought,
And with his blood mankind hath bought:
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel!
(Traditional English carol)

 

Postlude This Little Babe (from Ceremony of Carols)           Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
Fairlawn Intermediate and Senior Choirs

This little babe so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak unarmèd wise
The gates of hell he will surprise.

With tears he fights and wins the field,
His naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrow looks of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns Cold and Need,
And feeble flesh his warrior’s steed.

His camp is pitchèd in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib his trench, haystalks his stakes;
Of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus, as sure his foe to wound,
The angels’ trump alarum sound.

My soul, with Christ join thou in fight;
Stick to the tents that he hath pight.
Within his crib is surest ward;
This little Babe will be thy guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy,
Then flit not from this heavenly Boy.
(Robert Southwell, ca. 1561-1595)

 

♪ Music notes ♪

Peter Cornelius (1824-1874) was a German composer, poet and translator. From an early age he played the violin and composed. From 1844-1852 he lived with his uncle in Berlin and during this time he met many prominent figures, including the Brothers Grimm and Felix Mendelssohn. He later lived in Vienna, where he began a friendship with Richard Wagner, but eventually settled in Munich. To this day, Cornelius’s best-known work is The Three Kings. An arrangement for solo voice and choir is included in the first volume of the popular “Carols for Choirs.” In this morning’s musical offering, the choir parts are played by the piano.

William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898) was an English writer of hymns and carols. He was educated in Bristol, for a mercantile career, and became manager of a maritime insurance company in Glasgow where he spent most of his life. His hymn texts are found in hymn books of many denominations, some of the most popular being As with Gladness Men of Old, What Child is This? and Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!

Chris Williams began his musical career at the age of eight as a chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England. Having won a scholarship to study music at New College, Oxford, he went on to study postgraduate composition and piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he won several prestigious prizes, including the Royal Philharmonic Prize for composition. For the past several years, Chris has lived in Bangalore, India, earning his living as a pianist playing western classical music. A New Year Carol won first prize in the published composer category of the 1993 Amadeus Choir Carol and Hanukkah competition, and it has since become a tradition to sing this charming carol on the first or second Sunday of every new year at Fairlawn.

Martin Neary (b. 1940) is an English organist and choral conductor. He was Organist and Director of Music at Winchester Cathedral from 1972 to 1988, and Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey from 1988 to 1998. The years at Winchester were especially innovative. In addition to extending the traditional choral repertoire, he commissioned new works from a number of composers, and in particular, John Tavener. As the organist at Westminster Abbey, Neary was the musical director for the funeral service of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Tavener’s Song for Athene was performed by the choir of the Abbey as the coffin was borne out by the pallbearers.

John Henry Hopkins, Jr. (1920-1891) received his education at the University of Vermont and at General Theological Seminary in New York City. He then became the first church music instructor at the Seminary, and was the founding editor of the “Church Journal” from 1853 to 1868. Through these positions he became recognized as a leading Episcopal church musician, and eventually was ordained in 1872. Hopkins wrote the carol We Three Kings (original title being Three Kings of the Orient – also known as The Quest of the Magi) in 1857 for a Christmas pageant in New York City. For almost a century, this carol was regarded by hymnal editors as the sole USA contribution to the repertory of English language carols.

William H. Harris (1883-1973) was an English organist, composer and choral trainer, affectionately nicknamed “Doc H” by his choristers. From 1923 to 1953, he served as a professor of organ and harmony at the Royal College of Music, and was also president of the Royal College of Organists (1946-1948), and director of musical studies at the Royal Scholl of Church Music (1956-1961). Although he wrote cantatas and organ pieces, Harris is best remembered today for his church music, though during his lifetime he was mainly known for his achievements as a choir-trainer.

Minnie Louise Haskins was a British poet and an academic in the field of sociology, best known for being quoted by King George VI in his Royal Christmas Message of 1939. The opening words of the poem “The Gate of the Year” struck a chord with a country facing the uncertainty of war. These words were from Haskins’ poem “God Knows” written in 1908 and expanded in 1912. However, she was not named as the author by the King and no one was able to identify the poet at the time. Finally at midnight on Boxing Day the BBC announced that the author was Minnie Louise Haskins. Haskins, by then 64 years old, did not know that the King would quote her words, and did not hear the broadcast. The next day, she was interviewed by The Daily Telegraph and said: “I heard the quotation read in a summary of the speech. I thought the words sounded familiar and suddenly it dawned on me that they were out of my little book.” The ‘little book’ was The Desert published in 1912. “The Gate of the Year” is now among the most quoted poetic works of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

David Willcocks (1919-2015) was a conductor, organist, composer and arranger, and long considered Britain’s most esteemed choir director. During the course of his remarkable life, to name but a few of his many accomplishments, he was the Music Director of the King’s College Choir of Cambridge University, and was associated for many years with the Bach Choir, based in London, England. His work with both ensembles — renowned for the brightness, clarity and impeccable intonation he routinely summoned from his singers — was considered exquisitely representative of the modern English choral tradition. He was also the co-editor (along with John Rutter) of the beloved Carols for Choirs series – carol books found in virtually every church and community choir’s library, and in which his arrangement of this morning’s opening hymn and first anthem appears. As a choral ambassador, Willcocks led ensembles in Canada, the United States and across the globe – and even worked with the Rolling Stones!

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was an English composer, conductor and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th century British classical music, with a range of works including opera, sacred and secular vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces. After a very successful three year trip to the United States, Britten and his longtime friend Peter Pears boarded a Swedish cargo ship in 1942 for their return to England. It was a long journey that took nearly a month. As U-boat activity was at its height, it was probably a rather frightening journey too. During the voyage, they berthed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Britten came across a book of medieval poems, and some of these poems he set for during the voyage from Nova Scotia to England, and called it Ceremony of Carols. Originally conceived for boys choir and harp, it has since become one of Britten’s best known and most performed works.

Robert Southwell (ca. 1561-1595) was an English Roman Catholic priest of the Jesuit order. He was also a poet, hymnodist, and clandestine missionary in Elizabethan England. Educated at Jesuit colleges in France and Rome, he was ordained in 1585 and made prefect of studies at the English College in Rome. He returned to England as a missionary in 1586, and became chaplain to Anne Howard and spiritual advisor to her husband, the 1st Earl of Arundel, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London because he refused to attend services of the Church of England, as was required by law. Southwell himself was arrested and imprisoned in 1592, and eventually tried and convicted of high treason for his links to the Holy See. He was sent to the gallows in 1595, and in 1970 he was canonized by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martrys of England and Wales.

Music Sources:

As with Gladness Men of Old arr. David Willcocks https://youtu.be/uH2SD23BT1E
We Three Kings of Orient Are arr. Martin Neary https://youtu.be/Lx35_DRIZ8g
I Said to the Man Who Stood at the Gate of the Year William H. Harris https://youtu.be/x4aHXKlT5cs
The First Nowell arr. David Willcocks https://youtu.be/Kt1m7sPaRuA
This Little Babe (from Ceremony of Carols) Benjamin Britten Fairlawn Intermediate and Senior Choirs

Image Sources:

Christmas Star http://www.theskyscrapers.org/mystery-of-the-christmas-star