Monday, January 5, 2009

As with Gladness Men of Old

"When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh."  (Matthew 2:10-11)   On Epiphany Sunday (1858), William Dix was too sick to attend church.  At home in bed, he read the story of the wise men and tried to apply the lesson to his own life.  The result was this familiar Epiphany hymn, "As with Gladness Men of Old."   As the wise men did--following, adoring, giving--so should we.  William Dix was a gifted poet but he made his living as the manager of a maritime insurance company in Glasgow, Scotland.  He knew the rigors of travel in the late 19th century and the joy of bringing gifts from far-off places.  Yet in this text he does not focus on the costliness of the Magi's gifts but rather that the Magi found what they sought and their worship of the Christ child.   In 1859, the text was already slated for inclusion in the original edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861) but was first published in 1861 in a small collection intended for private circulation entitled Hymns of Joy and Love.

1.  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 by Thee.

2.  As with joyful steps they sped,
     Savior, to Thy lowly bed,
         There to bend the knee before
         Thee, whom heav'n and earth adore;
     So may we with willing feet
     Ever seek Thy mercy seat.

3.  As they offered gifts most rare
     At Thy cradle, 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 heav'nly King. 

4.  Holy Jesus, ev'ry 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.

5.  In the heav'nly country bright
     Need they no created light;
         Thou its light, its joy, its crown,
         Thou its sun which goes not down;
     There forever may we sing
     Alleluias to our King.

1 comment:

robert said...

Good to see the words of William Dix's hymn, "As With Gladness"--and to see the last stanza included. Most hymn books omit it, but it gives the hymn a fitting conclusion. I know it's not Christmas quite yet, but today, as I write, is the 111th anniversary of Dix's death.