First in our search for the star we encounter the beautiful chorale Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, which opens our prelude as an extended fantasia by Dietrich Buxtehude. Hum along so you are ready to sing the hymn later in the service. Next, Mary Sears will sing three traditional Noëls (fancy French for "Christmas Carol") - again, you must listen closely, as they will pop up again come communion time.
The choir Introit is a setting of this excerpt from the intriguing poem "God Knows" by Minnie Louise Haskins:
And 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 light and safer than a known way.”
This poem, written in 1908 and privately published in 1912, caught the public attention and the popular imagination when King George VI quoted it in his 1939 Christmas broadcast. The book The Servant Queen and the King She Serves, published for Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday, says that it was the young Elizabeth herself, aged 13, who handed the poem to her father. Its words have remained a source of comfort to the Queen, and she had its words engraved on stone plaques and fixed to the gates of the King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle, where the King was interred. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was also buried here in 2002, and the words of "The Gate of the Year" were included in a reflection in her funeral order of service.
The motet and offertory both set verses from Isaiah 60, Arise, Shine, perfect for Epiphany. Additionally, the offertory marks the beginning of our January James Woodman project as the choir prepares for our Portrait of a Composer concert program coming up on January 21.
Our communion music is from Marc-Antoine Charpentier's delightful Midnight Mass on Traditional French Carols. The Kyrie carol is used again by Claude Balbastre in the set of variations you will hear for our postlude.