Set the Sun Dancing

a song for Epiphany

Music by Ron Klusmeier
Words by Shirley Erena Murray
Tune Name: SARDIS

Lyrics as Poetry

Set the sun dancing!
New life has begun!

Star, you must fade,
for your journey is done,

New Year rides onward now,
Christmas is gone,

carry the light with us
as we move on.

For the light that is shining
is our light to hold,
facing, embracing
the darkness and cold,
light that’s not hidden
where Good News is told:
the hope that is born
with Christ Jesus!

Wise men with riches
of knowledge and thought

found greater treasure
than ever they brought,

rose from their knees
and were clothed in this light

—new understanding of
power and right,

And the light that is shining
is our light to hold,
facing, embracing
the darkness and cold,
light that’s not hidden
where Good News is told:
the hope that is born
with Christ Jesus!

We are the company,
foolish and wise,

rich in a faith
that all reason defies,

crossing the borders
of culture and race,

leading by lifestyle,
forgiveness and grace,

And the light that is shining
is our light to hold,
facing, embracing
the darkness and cold,
light that’s not hidden
where Good News is told:
the hope that is born
with Christ Jesus!

Peace is not born
at the end of a gun,

peace is a family
gathered as one,

here is Epiphany,
wrapped in a shawl,

Christ who is Light,
who is wiser than all,

And the light that is shining
is our light to hold,
facing, embracing
the darkness and cold,
light that’s not hidden
where Good News is told:
the hope that is born
with Christ Jesus!


Words by
Shirley Erena MurrayCopyright © 1996 by Hope Publishing Company
Carol Stream, Illinois • USA

Comments About Song

A Reflection by hymnwriter
WALTER FARQUHARSON

Knowing that this song was written for the church’s season of Epiphany, the time immediately following Christmas, I wondered what the imagery would be. The Christian story for centuries was predominantly wedded to the seasons of the Northern Hemisphere. The birth of Jesus began to be celebrated in December, coinciding with the longest and darkest nights and seasons of cold winds and often snow and ice. As the days would begin to lengthen, Christians welcomed and celebrated the season of light and the unveiling of what had been hidden. It was the time of discovery, revelation, epiphany.

The story of the magi, the astrologer priests, the three kings, whoever they were who had journeyed from the distant east following the movements of some star, became wedded to the nativity narrative. In our pageants and creche scenes, shepherds and seers share space as they honour the child in the manger and wonder at the unlikely parents who seemed so out of place when angels sang and prophecies were quoted.

Outside of the churches that follow what they call the Christian calendar, the secular world and many Christians pack Christmas away ready for unpacking twelve months hence. Epiphany has been supplanted by New Year’s and even the lengthening days have little impact on the schedules deemed usual and normal. Strange to note that during the months of the COVID pandemic we have spoken so much of returning to normal as if there was some sort of universal normal encompassing almost everything and everyone. (Evidence, I’m afraid, of a world tending to both myopic and MY-opic viewing and visioning.). Shirley Erena Murray says it so simply, “New Year rides onward now, Christmas is gone.”

The call, and the promise, is that, even as we close the door and pack away the decorations and observances of another Christmas, we must carry the light with us as we, like the seasons, move on.

Verse two of this hymn brings our attention back to the magi. “Wise men with riches of wisdom and thought found greater treasure than ever they brought, rose from their knees and were clothed in this light – new understanding of power and right…”

When the magi had arrived in Judaea they had gone to the capital city, Jerusalem, and they sought out King Herod. Would the centre of both religious and political power not be the place to learn of a new ruler – and a new sense of what a realm of peace and justice might look like? When they left, having been warned in a dream, they chose another route, another way.

The skeptic, the arguer, the needler, will often address a believer by asking how it is possible to believe the miracle stories of the gospel: a six-day creation, Jonah in the fish’s belly, angels singing to herald Jesus’ birth, an empty tomb. The believer, feeling trapped, may resort to some pious utterance such as, “With God, all things are possible.” Both, in their own ways trivialize what comes to us as the ultimate challenge of the Spirit. Do we dare to believe in love, in forgiveness, in the possibility of justice and peace? Do we dare to believe in the healing of communities, nations, and a scarred and abused creation? Do we dare to believe what is evident in the light of God’s presence and promise? Because – and this is the crux of the matter – to believe is to commit, to act, to become agents/doers of this good news. The cynical me, and the pious me, unlike the magi, will, again and again, opt “to return by the same way”. Or, we can join in the song of the alternate way: “We are the company, foolish and wise, rich in a faith that all reason defies, crossing the borders of culture and race, leading by life-style, forgiveness and grace…”

Paul, writing to the faith community in Corinth, proclaimed, “The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” (1st Corinthians 1:18-31). I am convinced that this is one of the most misused passages in the Christian Scriptures. It has been used to disparage knowledge and, quite bluntly, to champion ignorance. It has been used to make virtue of attacking and demonizing science and scientists – insisting, for instance, that the earth was flat, that the sun moved around the earth, that evolutionary science was just another “theory”, that diseases like Covid were imaginary or preventative vaccines were “of the devil”. Similarly it has been used to condemn or ostracize persons suffering from mental illness, belonging to “another” race, not fitting into particular gender stereotypes. Equally dangerous and divisive has been the tendency to equate “the message about the cross” with a particular theological theory or expression – as defined by a particular denomination or as “possessed” by a persuasive preacher demanding loyalty and obedience from “faithful” followers.

Shirley Erena Murray expresses well an engaging way forward. “The light that is shining is our light to hold”. We hold it, follow it, celebrate it. We do not own it. It is not ours to withhold or dispense. In this light, God’s gift, we are enabled to face the dark and the cold. Sometimes confronting, sometimes enduring. Sometimes we embrace the dark and the cold as Jesus did. The hope that is “born with Christ Jesus” takes flesh in us as practiced loving. It is not to be hidden. Peace and good-will, peace and health and comfort, are redemptive possibilities, life-giving power set loose for the blessing of God’s family. So, “Set the sun dancing! New life has begun!


An Activity: Imagine that you are in a one-on-one conversation with Jesus. First, set the scene:
• It is sometime within the past six months.

• Where are you?

• What were you doing prior to the conversation?

• How are each of you dressed?

Follow the outline of the conversation as provided filling in the blanks. Jesus speaks first.

Jesus: Hello __________________________. Are you surprised to see me?
You: ____________________________________________

Jesus: I’d like to hear why you responded the way you did to my simple question.
You: ____________________________________________

Jesus: I have something to ask of you.
You: ____________________________________________

Jesus: Why do you think I’m asking you to do that?
You: ____________________________________________

Jesus: __________________________________________
You: ____________________________________________

Jesus: Do you think it will be difficult to do?
You: ____________________________________________

Jesus: Tell me what you are feeling about my request.
You: ____________________________________________

Jesus: Any questions for me?
You: ____________________________________________

Jesus: So, what’s next?
You: ____________________________________________


Audio Sample for "Set the Sun Dancing"

One Verse
played on piano

Scripture References

  • Matthew 2:1-12
  • Matthew 19:16-26
  • Mark 8:34-37
  • Mark 12:28-34
  • John 1:1-5
  • John 8:12
  • John 15:8-12
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
  • 1 Corinthians 14:13-20
  • Colossians 3:1-17
  • James 1:17-2:8
  • 1 John 3:1-3
  • 1 John 3:11-18

Season, Theme
or Subject

  • Celebration
  • Children∶ music about
  • Children∶ music for
  • Commitment, Dedication
  • Ecumenical
  • Epiphany
  • God∶ love of
  • Intergenerational
  • Kings (nativity)
  • Life∶ living life
  • Light
  • Love∶ God's
  • New Year
  • Peace
  • Praise
  • Service, Serving
  • Witness
  • Worship

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