URC Daily Devotion 10th December 2020

Thursday 10th December – People Look East

Eleanor Farjeon is best remembered for Morning has Broken.  She wrote this Advent carol based on a passage in Baruck (5:5-7) where the people were told to look to the East to see the people gathered in by the Lord.  A committed Christian, Farjeon used the carol to remind us to look to Christ who comes to redeem us.  

Isaiah 60: 1-5

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes and look around;
    they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
    and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
    your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
    the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

People Look East
Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965) © David Higham Assoc. Ltd.

You can hear the carol here

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.

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

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.


Hear the dramatic bass solo from Handel’s Messiah which uses this Isaiah text; and listen to the antiphon ‘O radiant dawn’ (based on Isaiah 9), set to music by James McMillan. Both capture a growing rapture at the dawning of the divine presence.

Eleanor Farjeon’s lovely carol illustrates Isaiah’s directions, urging us to ‘look east’, towards our faith’s beginnings, and of course the sun’s dawning. Thereafter, the natural world is encouraged to heed the epiphany that brings light, love and fruitfulness into being. Each stanza finishes with the invitation to the singer(s) to know that love, in all its myriad forms, is about to embrace us. The final stanza envisages God’s own messengers, the angels, delivering the joyous message of Christ’s advent.

For Isaiah, God’s advent brings with it the assurance of salvation for Israel. Here, there is no mention of war or the spoils of war. Rather, ‘the nations’, attracted by the splendour of God’s glory appearing, stream into Israel, and, along with her diaspora, enrich her beyond all measure. This prophetic vision is a peaceful, joyous one where adoration rather than might rules.

God appearing in radiant glory occurs a number of times in Isaiah, often in times of Israel’s distress. These visions are rooted in the belief that God will bring salvation to his people. Christians have set this reading from Isaiah 60 firmly in history, associating the divine epiphany with the coming of Christ. 
As we read Isaiah’s oracle during the season of Christmas, we are reminded that God’s promised salvation is for us too. In the coming of Christ, ‘Love, the Lord, is on the way’. The welcome we offer him, whatever our circumstances, allows hope and confidence to flood into our lives. May it ever be so.


Gracious God,
come to our troubled world,
and into our anxious lives,
reminding us that the light of life
Jesus Christ is your gift to us.
In his coming, your unconditional love
for us is made known for all time.
May this dawn upon us time and again:
that being loved, and being loving
is the way you would have us be,
till the whole world unites in your praise.

Today’s writer

The Rev’d John A Young, retired minister National Synod of Scotland, member Giffnock URC.CopyrightNew Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.