Monday, December 24, 2012

"Wake, Awake for Night Is Flying" was the answer to Christmas Mystery 2012

The title of the hymn, "Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying," traditionally sung during Advent, is the answer to Christmas Mystery 2012.  An explanation of the clues will be posted in due course.

Background:  This year's Christmas Mystery is based on artist Elinor Sethman's "Kaleidoscope of Christmas Past."

I encountered Elinor's work at the Laguna Beach, CA Art-A-Fair, held every summer for two months in conjunction with the Festival of the Arts/Pageant of the Masters and the Sawdust Festival.

Elinor makes use of watercolors and colored pencils to produce unique kaleidoscope-like paintings.  (I have two of her giclee reproductions hanging in my kitchen.) 

This year I decided to take up the challenge of creating a Christmas Mystery puzzle based on an already existing work of art, namely, Sethman's "Kaleidoscope of Christmas Past."   In this piece, the flying angel and the nutcracker, who appeared to have just woken, reminded me of the Advent hymn, "Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying." An organ rendition, with printed words, can be found here.

Some background on the hymn itself:  Lutheran Pastor Philipp Nicolai published this hymn, both German lyrics and music are his own, in 1599.  Apparently a devastating plague engulfed his parish town of Unna, Germany at that time, and inspired him to write this hymn reflective of eternal life. In German, the hymn begins, "Wachet auf! ruft uns die Stimme...."  The arrangement of the tune most familiar today is due to Bach. In hymnals, the tune is listed as WACHET AUF.

There have been numerous translations of the lyrics into English; I am using the translation by Catherine Winkworth, which she published in 1858. 

The first stanza of the hymn is largely inspired by the parable of the ten virgins, Matthew 25:1-13, but also references Isaiah 52: 1, 8. Stanza 2 comes from Revelation 22: 16-20, while the third and final stanza has connections to Revelation 5:11-13, Revelation 21:21, Isaiah 64:4 and I Corinthians 2:9.  Interestingly, the United Methodist Hymnal  (pg. 720, open the link to see lyrics and tune), lists Romans 13:11-12 and Matthew 25:1-13 as scripture references for the hymn in the print edition.

More details about this hymn can be found here and here.

Explanation of the Clues:

* The opening two lines of the poem make reference to the choir in "Kaleidoscope of Christmas Past."  This points to a carol or hymn of the season. The words "revelation" and "exhortation" in those first two lines certainly are consistent with the lyrics of "Wake, Awake for Night is Flying."

* The question by Raggedy Ann and the statement by Gingerbread Man connect with the scripture references of the United Methodist Hymnal.

* Mr. Nutcracker awaking clearly alludes to the hymn's lyrics.

* The flying angel again connects with the opening line of the hymn.  The second stanza of the hymn speaks of "Her Star," so a reference to stars in the poem is suggestive.

* The third line of the first stanza of the hymn begins with "Midnight," so I have the angel revealing a key clue at midnight.

* The central clue of the puzzle is, appropriately, shown in its own kaleidoscope emerging from the angel puzzle.  This is a double cryptograph which is easily solved by letting 0 stand for an a, 1 for b, 2 for a c,..., and 25 for z.

* First taking the numbers in the white spokes, beginning with 22 (a posted clue made reference to two orange stars on either side of the angel puzzle), and going clockwise, we get "wachetauf," namely, WACHET AUF, the name of the tune.

*  Next taking the numbers in the red areas outside the white spokes, again beginning with a 22 (the 22 next to the white spoke 22), and going counterclockwise, we get "winkworth," obviously referring to Catherine Winkworth, whose English lyrics for this hymn are used in many hymnals.

* The laughing St. Nick is weaved into the poem by having him make reference to the cryptograph.

*  Finally Rocking Horse rounds out the poem with a wink (a reference to Catherine Winkworth), and a nod telling you that there are just six words in the answer, and that the wooden angel puzzle will be the prize for the winner.


  1. Wow Glen, I would like to get inside your brain. You are very smart. I do need an explanation of the clues. It is such an honor for me that you used my image.

  2. Interesting. I have never heard the song "Wake, Awake Night is Flying. I can see where the pieces of the painting could lead to that answer though. Very clever.