“On Wings of Living Light”

"…He rose early on the first day of the week…" (Mk. 16:9)

     INTRO.: A hymn which chronicles the events surrounding the time when Jesus Christ rose early on the first day of the week and then explains what this means to us is "On Wings of Living Light." The text was written by William Walsham How (1823-1897). A bishop in the Anglican Church whose other well known hymns include "O Word of God Incarnate," "For All the Saints," and "We Give Thee But Thine Own," How published "On Wings of Living Light" in the 1872 Children’s Hymns compiled by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. Several tunes have been used with the song. The traditional one (Mansfield) was composed in 1890 by Joseph Barnby. Another suitable one (Arthur’s Seat) was composed by John Goss, who was born on Dec. 27, 1800, at Fareham in Hampshire, England, the son of an organist named Joseph Goss. As a boy John samg in the Chapel Royal and studied organ under Thomas Atwood. After trying out opera, he decided to become an organist. In 1826 he published Parochial Psalmody in four volumes. Other works include Introduction to Harmony and Thorough Bass in 1833, Chants Ancient and Modern in 1841, and Church Psalter and Hymnbook in 1856.

     From 1856 to 1872 Goss was the official composer at the Chapel Royal, where he produced 27 anthems and a number of other pieces, and for 47 years was professor of harmony at the Royal Academy of Music. Knighted in 1872 by Queen Victoria, he was given the Doctor of Music degree by Cambridge in 1876, and died at Brixton, a district of London, England, on May 19, 1880. This particular tune dates from 1874 and was arranged as a hymn tune by Uzziah Christopher Burnap (1834-1900). Another well known tune (Benedic Anima) by Goss is that most commonly used with Henry Francis Lyte’s "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven." Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "On Wings of Living Light" appeared, with a tune (Lischer or Das Lieben Bringt Gross Freud) attributed to either J. C. Schneider or Friedrich Silcher and most commonly associated in our books with the hymn "Welcome, Delightful Morn," in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater.

     The hymn praises the Lord for the wonderful blessings associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

I. Stanza 1 focuses on the angel who rolled the stone away
"On wings of living light, At earliest dawn of day,
Came down the angel bright, And rolled the stone away."
 A. The resurrection of Christ obviously occurred at earliest dawn of day: Mk. 16:1-2
 B. We are told that it was an angel who came down to open the tomb for the risen Christ to come forth: Matt. 28:1-2
 C. Therefore, when the women arrived, they found the stone rolled away: Lk. 24:1-2

II. Stanza 2 focuses on the keepers who guarded the tomb
"The keepers watching near, At that dread sight and sound,
Fell down with sudden fear Like dead men to the ground."
 A. The Jews had set a guard to watch the tomb: Matt. 27:65-66
 B. However, the guards were so afraid when the angel came that they became as dead men: Matt. 28:4
 C. These guards had to be bribed to lie about what had happened: Matt. 28:11-15

III. Stanza 3 focuses on the Lord who rose from the dead
"Then rose from death’s dark gloom, Unseen by mortal eye,
Triumphant o’er the tomb, The Lord of earth and sky!"’
 A. "Death’s dark gloom" of course refers to the grave in which Jesus was buried: Jn. 19:38-42
 B. However, He was triumphant over the tomb because He rose from the dead: Rom. 1:3-4
 C. Therefore, He is the Lord of all: Acts 10:36

IV. Stanza 4 focuses upon our need to arise with Him
"Ye children of the light, Arise with Him, arise;
See, how the Day-star bright Is burning in the skies!"
 A. Those who follow Jesus Christ are referred to as children of light: Eph. 5:8
 B. This is because just as He rose from the dead, so we rise to walk in newness of life: Rom. 6:3-4
 C. Thus we must let him shine in our hearts as the Day-star bright: 2 Pet. 1:19

V. Stanza 5 focuses on our hope of rising like Him
"Oh, let your hearts be strong! For we, like Him, shall rise
To dwell with Him ere long In bliss beyond the skies!"
 A. We must let our hearts be strong by setting our mind on things above: Col. 3:1-2
 B. He has promised that like Him we shall rise: 1 Cor. 15:20-22
 C. Our hope then is to dwell with Him in bliss beyond the skies: 1 Thess. 4:16-17

VI. Stanza 6 focuses on the importance of singing to the Lord
"We sing Thee, Lord divine, With all our hearts and powers,
For we are ever Thine, And Thou art ever ours."
 A. As a result of this hope, we sing to the Lord divine: Col. 3:16
 B. If we are God’s children, we are His (Christ’s) too: Gal. 3:29
 C. And He is ours because He and the Father dwell in us: Jn. 14:23

     CONCL.: There is a short refrain at the end of each stanza:
"Your voices raise with one accord,
To bless and praise your risen Lord!"
The hymn was originally in seven stanzas; the omitted one (#5) is as follows:
"Leave in the grave beneath The old things passed away;
Buried with Him in death, O live with Him today."
It appears that this hymn was written primarily to help children understand what the Bible says about the resurrection of Christ and its meaning to us. However, it is important for adults to understand this as well, and there is nothing in this hymn which is inappropriate for use in a worship service, as we praise the Lord for that time when the angel came to roll the stone away "On Wings of Living Light."


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