Brightest and best
This hymn, written for the feast of the Epiphany, was the first written by Reginald Heber (1783-1826) who eventually became Bishop of Calcutta. It was during his 16 years as a parish priest in Hodnet, Shropshire, however, that he wrote the hymns he became famous for, including “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty”.
There was some controversy around this hymn, and it was omitted from many hymn books originally because it is addressed to a star – the star of Bethlehem – rather than to God.
It invites us imaginatively to step into the story of the Wise men and make our own journey to Bethlehem. What will we give the infant Jesus as a gift? Not the gold, frankincense and myrrh they did, but our “heart’s adoration”. The last line reminds us that “the prayers of the poor” are worth far more than any material gift.
The tune most often used for this hymn in the Church of England is Epiphany, by Joseph Francis Thrupp (1827-67) vicar of Barrington, Cambridgeshire.
Brightest and best of the sons 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.
Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining;
Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all!
Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
Odors of Edom and offerings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?
Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favour secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
- · Have you ever tried to buy God’s favour or bargain with him? How difficult is it for you to trust that he loves you as you are?