It’s a new day. Alarm clocks are ringing. People are rushing. Some of us will grab a cup of coffee and race out the door, texting as we go. Others will watch a morning talk show or sit and read the paper. Aching elderly in nursing homes and patients recovering in hospitals will be awakened and helped to begin another day. Young parents will review their lists of things-to-do as they get the kids ready for school.
God has created the world anew. Will we notice?
HYMN AUTHOR, ECCENTRIC AND FULL OF FANTASY
Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965), was immersed in bohemian literary London from a young age. Surrounded by writers and books, she was encouraged to use her imagination and, home-schooled, spent hours reading in the attic. Nellie, as she was known, remained unmarried to become an accomplished poet and author of children’s books and magical stories that favored commoners over royalty. Eccentric and shy, she won a number of literary awards, was a regular contributor to Punch Magazine, and counted among her friends Robert Frost, D. H. Lawrence, and many other writers.
In 1931, she was asked to write a poem to fit the traditional Scottish tune “Bunessan” and penned the words to “MORNING HAS BROKEN.” All but ignored until recorded by Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam, it reached #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening Chart in 1972. Farjeon’s hymn has since been recorded by a variety of vocal artists, including Art Garfunkel, Neil Diamond, and Judy Collins.
BURIED TREASURE: JOY IN THE HEART OF DESPAIR
Sweet as dew and drenched in sunlight, Farjeon’s lyrics are built, surprisingly, on verses found in The Book of Lamentations, written, it’s widely believed, by Jeremiah, the grieving, raging, weeping prophet.
In this book of sorrows, the despairing observer lists all that is wrong with the world around him:
- hunger and misery
- ravage and ruin
The list sounds familiar: check out today’s news. Is there nothing new under the sun?
But, in the middle of this inventory of woe (Lamentations 3:22-23), the weeping prophet waves away clouds of doom and gloom, steps into the sunshine, and startles us with joy. Jeremiah affirms his trust in God, whose mercies are “new every morning,” and proclaims, “Great is Thy faithfulness!” These exclamations of praise arise from a litany of despair.
Knowing that this refreshing and gentle hymn was inspired by verses in Lamentations deepens our experience of it as we stand to sing. We are reminded that our task is to awaken, not only to this day, but to the world around us, to be mindful of all of it — the beauty and the pain. This hymn calls us to be faithful to the whole of God’s wondrous, suffering creation.
TO GO DEEPER
“Morning Has Broken” (with printed lyrics) sung by Judy Collins
“Morning Has Broken” Art Garfunkel, Diana Krall