I am the Light whose brightness shines

Today’s hymn from Sing Praise is ‘I am the Light whose brightness shines’ by Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral.  It is not specifically an Advent hymn, beyond the fact that its focus is Jesus.  Its seven verses each interpret one of the seven ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus in John’s Gospel: the Light, the Gate, the Well (or living water), the Bread of Life, The Vine, the Resurrection and the Life, and the Way, the Truth and the Life. 

Whole books have been written about these sayings, and a few sung lines in a hymn cannot plumb their depths. But Willis’s words do make these timeless theological declarations personal, by relating them to the life of the believer. For example, ‘The shepherd who will tend my sheep, that none are lost or stray’, or ‘whoever truly trusts in me shall live and never die’. The full text can be found online as part of a service booklet.

The suggested tune is called ‘Richmond’ which turns out to be one usually associated with the hymn ‘Praise to the Holiest in the height’, though that hymn is also commonly sung to ‘Gerontius’.  As these are ‘common metre’ tunes, either is suitable, as would be many others.

2 thoughts on “I am the Light whose brightness shines”

  1. Actually, isn’t it “I am the LIGHT whose brightness shines …”?

    But I can find little to add to Stephen’s comments. Of course the exact enumeration of the “I am” sayings is a little more complicated than simply saying that “there are 7”, for “Before Abraham was I am” is also one of them, and “the way, the truth and the life” can count as three or one, and the “living water” is not exactly said as “I am”, and so on and so forth. I was a bit confused about the Well, particularly as the text then develops the imagery of Revelation 22:2 rather than John 7:37-39; and so I felt the truth of Stephen’s observation that “a few sung lines in a hymn cannot plumb their depths”.

    I was very happy with the choice of a tune, which naturally puts the opening stress of each verse onto its fourth syllable, exactly chiming in with the words.

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