Christmas, Day 2

LOOK: Jesus, Light of the World by Wayne Forte

Forte, Wayne_Jesus, Light of the World
Wayne Forte (Filipino American, 1950–), Jesus, Light of the World, 2009. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 30 × 24 in.

LISTEN: “Jesus, Light of the World” | Words by Charles Wesley (stanzas), 1739, and George D. Elderkin (refrain), 1890 | Music by George D. Elderkin, 1890 | Performed by Isaac Cates and Ordained on Carol of the Bells, 2014 (soloists: Margaret Rainey and Kami Woodard)

Hark! the herald angels sing.
Jesus, the light of the world.
Glory to the newborn King,
Jesus, the light of the world.

We’ll walk in the light, beautiful light.
Come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright.
Oh, shine all around us by day and by night.
Jesus, the light of the world.

Joyful, all you nations, rise.
Jesus, the light of the world.
Join the triumph of the skies.
Jesus, the light of the world.

Christ, by highest heav’n adored.
Jesus, the light of the world.
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Jesus, the light of the world.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace.
Jesus, the light of the world.
Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Jesus, the light of the world.

In 1890 Chicago publisher George D. Elderkin adapted Charles Wesley’s beloved Christmas hymn text “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” using the first two lines of Wesley’s stanzas 1, 2, 3, and 5 and adding a refrain that’s based on a Fanny Crosby text from 1880. For the music, he wrote a gospel waltz. Although Elderkin was not African American, this hymn has become especially well loved in Black churches. Read a more detailed history of the hymn’s composition at the UMC Discipleship website.  

Isaac Cates’s 2014 arrangement and recording is my favorite. Cates is a gospel vocalist, arranger, and pianist who performs with his choir, Ordained.

Send Out Your Light (Artful Devotion)

Lighthouse in Westkapelle by Piet Mondrian
Piet Mondrian (Dutch, 1872–1944), Lighthouse in Westkapelle [in Orange], 1909. Oil on canvas, 39 × 29 cm. Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan.

O send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling.

—Psalm 43:3

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SONG: “Let Your Light Shine on Me” | Traditional, performed by Blind Willie Johnson, 1929

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About the painting: Before he became a world-famous pioneer of geometric abstraction, Piet Mondrian (1872–1944) spent his early artistic career painting pastoral images of his native Netherlands in an impressionist style—churches, windmills, fields, rivers, sand dunes, and lighthouses. He made several paintings, using different color palettes, of the “tall lighthouse” of Westkapelle, which stands at the entrance to the village. The structure is actually a fifteenth-century Gothic church tower that was converted into a lighthouse in 1818 after the church burned down. It is still active, serving along with the “short lighthouse” to lead vessels coming in from the northern part of the North Sea. The loose pointillist technique Mondrian uses here enables him to fuse the lighthouse with the surrounding sky, producing a sense of vibration and ethereality.

About the singer: Blind Willie Johnson (1897–1945) was a gospel blues singer, slide guitarist, and evangelist from Texas about whom little is known. Besides the one-time payments he received from Columbia for his studio recordings of 1927–30, most of his income was earned by performing and preaching on the streets; appreciative passersby would drop coins into the tin cup tied to his Stella. Johnson is known for his unique style of singing: in a gravelly “false bass,” or growl, which he drops into in verse 2 of “Let Your Light Shine on Me.” His is the earliest known recording of this traditional gospel song.


This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for Proper 26, cycle A, click here.