STLT#226, People, Look East

Diving right in – I love this hymn. It’s joyful, it’s anticipatory, it’s hopeful.

The lyrics, by 19th century poet Eleanor Farjeon (best known for Morning Has Broken) are a wonderful exploration of the whole earth waiting to welcome the Christ child. Sure, there are two verses missing – but the third verse is not very good and I applaud the hymnal commission for omitting it. The final verse, well, it would have been nice but I get why it’s not in there. Here are the lyrics we have in the hymnal:

People, look east. The time is near of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today: Love the Guest, is on the way.

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare, one more seed is planted there.
Give up your strength the seed to nourish, that in course and flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today: Love, the Rose, is on the way.

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim, one more light the bowl shall brim,
shining beyond the frosty weather, bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today: Love, the Star, is on the way.

And here are the two omitted verses – first, verse 3, which I am not at all a fan of:

Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

And verse 5, which I wish was included:

Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

I do think, if I were to use this to frame a month of Sundays, I’d add in that final verse – it provides a beautiful opening to talk about coming of the Messiah.

And omissions or not, I love this hymn. Again, it’s a perfect marriage of lyric and tune – this time an ancient French carol from Besançon in western France. It is a light, joyful tune, with joyful lyrics. And while Advent is often a time of quiet anticipation, there’s a joyfulness in the waiting for this gift…we’re not waiting for the world to end, we’re waiting for the world to be reborn.

And that’s worth singing joyfully about.

The image is of the old city of Besançon, on the Doub River in France. Looking east, of course.

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