It is the first snowy day of the winter. And it is quite lovely. I know many dread this day – with its accompanying traffic problems, cold temperatures, snowsuits and boots, short days. But there is also a beauty in these tiny crystals of frozen water than never fails to amaze me. Another piece of our world that brings joy to children and photographers alike; playful exuberance and thoughtful chronicling of this sparkling wonder. And so, I thought of this hymn mostly because of its title. The morning stars were singing today as they looked upon the splendour.
When the morning stars together their creator’s glory sang,
And the angel host all shouted till with joy the heavens rang,
Then your wisdom and your greatness their exultant music told,
All the beauty and the splendor which your mighty works unfold.
When in synagogue and temple voices raised the psalmists’ songs,
Offering the adoration which alone to you belongs,
When the singers and the cymbals with the trumpet made accord,
Glory filled the house of worship, and all knew your presence, Lord.
Voice and instrument, in union through the ages spoke thy praise.
Plainsong, tuneful hymns, and anthems told your faithful, gracious ways.
Choir and orchestra and organ each a sacred off’ring brought,
While, inspired by your own Spirit, poet and composer wrought.
Lord, we bring our gift of music; touch our lips and fire our hearts,
Teach our minds and train our senses, fit us for this sacred art.
Then with skill and consecration we would serve you, Lord, and give
All our pow’rs to glorify you, and in serving fully live.
This is an old tune from around 1741, but the words were written in 1969 by Albert F. Bayly. He was a Congregationalist minister in England from 1928 to 1972. He began to write poetry and hymn texts in 1945 as a response to modern scientific knowledge and contemporary problems – one of a number of post-war hymn writers doing so at the time. He was inspired by nature and science, perhaps among the first to have this focus in their hymns.
I find these words quite interesting in that they comment on the beauty and wonder of creation, or nature if you prefer to think of it that way. Not unusual for a hymn, but he takes it a bit further by speaking of our ability to join the voices of the past as we sing. I love that. A large part of what these hymns mean to me, lies in that idea. Thousands of voices singing together over time about things that are so basic to our human experience. Beauty. The wonders of nature. Wisdom.
And then we arrive at the final verse and are reminded that music is a gift we bring. A gift. Something that we must be inspired to learn and master so that this sacred art is skillfully presented. What a challenge. Perhaps it is meant specifically for those of us that engage in music making, but I think it is more than that. We live in a spectacular world. When we hone our skills, whatever they may be, we reflect our surroundings. When we take the time to be our full selves, despite the struggles we all face, we begin to practice our sacred art. When we share our sacred art with the world, whatever it may be, whomever we cross paths with, we are giving this gift. We are serving and we are contributing.
So those tiny snowflakes in all their beauty and all the ways they make our days more difficult, can also remind us of our beautiful uniqueness and our need to work towards skillful ease. To fully live as we experience and serve those around us, our environment and our world. We give our gifts and are rewarded with morning stars singing together above our efforts; reflecting the beauty of our songs, our skills and our blessings.