Songs of Thankfulness and Praise

1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son  (Hebrews 1:1-2a)

Manifest – readily perceived by the eye or the understanding; evident; obvious; apparent; plain. (dictionary.com)

The hymn of the day for this Sunday, Songs of Thankfulness and Praise, beautifully sums up the season of Epiphany.  Throughout the season of Epiphany we see God revealed in human form. During this season we see Jesus visited by the Magi, baptized in the Jordan, healing the sick, and blessed by God as the beloved Son.  God makes Himself known through His Son. He makes Himself manifest, which means obvious and plain to see.

The hymn’s author is Christopher Woodsworth, the nephew of the poet William Woodsworth. He studied at Trinity College in Cambridge and became an ordained clergyman. He was the bishop of Lincoln cathedral for many years before his death.

 

We’ll start with stanza 1:

Songs of thankfulness and praise,

Jesus, Lord, to Thee we raise,

Manifested by the star

To the sages from afar,

Branch of royal David’s stem

In Thy birth at Bethlehem:

Anthems be to Thee addressed,

God in man made manifest.

 

The hymn’s author starts with God being revealed through the star that rose and the visit of the Magi. Here’s their account from Matthew 2:

1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”…

10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

The wise men came because the star revealed that the Messiah, the King, the Anointed One had been born. Notice their response as well. They came to worship him. They brought the finest gifts and spices- gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The account of the wise men also includes this quote from Micah

2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.

Jesus is born as the king, the promised descendant of David. By fulfilling all the promises made about him, he makes it clear to us that He is the messiah he claims to be.

Stanza 2:
Manifest at Jordan’s stream,

Prophet, Priest, and King supreme;

And at Cana wedding guest

In Thy God-head manifest;

Manifest in pow’r divine,

Changing water into wine;

Anthems be to Thee addressed,

God in man made manifest.

 

Here we see Jesus revealed through His first miracle; changing water into wine. Here’s the account from the Gospel of John:

1On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

It is convenient for our purposes that the English Standard Version uses the phrase “manifested his glory” to translate the text. Jesus’ glory and divinity become clear through the miracles he performs on earth. This is why John refers to miracles as “signs”. As with the previous stanza, we respond by directing our anthems of praise and thanksgiving to Him.

Stanza 3

Manifest in making whole

Palsied limbs and fainting soul;

Manifest in valiant fight,

Quelling all the devil’s might;

Manifest in gracious will,

Ever bringing good from ill;

Anthems be to Thee addressed,.

God in man made manifest.

 

Here are a couple of definitions for those of us who, like me, are vocabulary-challenged.

Palsied – refers to the condition of palsy, which involves paralysis and involuntary tremors.

Quell – to thoroughly overwhelm and reduce to submission or passivity.

Our world has fallen into sin and in our sin-filled world there is death and decay and disease. These things are evil and are from the devil, who wants nothing more than for us to be miserable and sick. When Jesus comes into our world He brings healing, life, and salvation. Isaiah prophesied about this in Isaiah chapter 35:

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Jesus truly does quell the devils’ might! He forces the devil into submission and brings about good things. Through His death and resurrection, he gives us eternal life and salvation. He now sits at the right hand of God and will come and reveal himself once more at the end of the world. This is where the next stanza takes us.

 

Stanza 4:
Sun and moon shall darkened be,

Stars shall fall, the heav’ns shall flee;

Christ will then like lightening shine,

All will see His glorious sign;

All will then the trumpet hear,

All will see the Judge appear;

Thou by all wilt be confessed,

God in man made manifest.

This stanza is referring to the end of times, when Jesus will appear and all will know that He is the glorious one. He will come to judge the world. This stanza is very similar to Matthew chapter 24:

29“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

So we have seen Jesus as God revealed, God made clear and visible, God made manifest through His earthly ministry and life. We have seen how He will be made manifest when He comes to judge the living and the dead on the last day. Does this leave us wondering where we see God made manifest today? Stanza 5 takes up this topic.

Stanza 5

Grant us grace to see Thee, Lord,

Present in Thy holy Word-

Grace to imitate Thee now

And be pure, as pure art Thou;

That we might become like Thee

At Thy great epiphany

And may praise Thee, ever blest,

God in man made manifest.

We see God present today through His holy Word. We see God present through Holy Scripture, in which He gives us the gospel and instructs us in the faith. We see God’s love made visible in the holy sacraments, in which the Word of God is combined with a visible, tangible element for our life and salvation. It is only through grace that we can see God, hear Him, and imitate Him in our life. We will become like Him because our life is hidden in Him. We will praise Him without end. Our God has revealed Himself to us, brought us to faith, keeps us in the faith, provides for us, and will love us and take care of us forever.

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3)

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