Posted by: rcottrill | September 28, 2016

We’ll Understand It Better By and By

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Charles Albert Tindley (b. July 7, 1851; d. July 26, 1933)
Music: Charles Albert Tindley

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: One who experienced first hand the struggles of his people was African American Charles Tindley, whose own father had been a slave. For a time, Tindley worked as the janitor of a small church in Philadelphia. Then, in 1902, he became the pastor of the church–an integrated congregation, rare, in its time. By God’s grace, Pastor Tindley built the membership to 12,500 before his death.

Tindley was also a gospel song writer of some note. His compositions not only taught Bible truths, they described the struggles faced by so many in his day, giving new hope for something better “by and by.” His song I’ll Overcome Some Day was adapted to become We Shall Overcome, a stirring anthem of the Civil Rights movement.

They called it the Fog Bowl, and fans of the Canadian Football League still talk about it. The championship game of 1962 pitted teams from Winnipeg and Hamilton, in a game played in Toronto. But, as television viewers watched, a thick fog began to roll in off nearby Lake Ontario. It became more and more difficult to see anything.

For awhile, players had a little visibility near ground level. One pass receiver reported he saw tacklers coming at him, “but only from the waist down!” Finally, when the referee was no longer able to see the players or the down markers, the CFL Commissioner, called the game, with just under ten minutes left to play.

The teams, and about half the fans, came back the next day for the finish–the only time that’s ever happened. Winnipeg won a close match, 28 to 27–though there are still Hamilton fans who claim their team’s gifted place kicker, Don Sutherin, kicked a winning field goal the referee didn’t see.

Fog. There are other kinds than what is caused by an excess of moisture in the air. “The fog of war” is a term from the nineteenth century describing the many unknowns involved in combat. A Prussian military analyst claimed, “Three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.”

Even in times of relative peace, there can be a kind of fog obscuring the lives of others living not too far away. Do you know anything about the personal struggles of a neighbour, or about those being experienced in a nearby town? Sometimes we live our lives in isolation and a sad insensitivity to the sufferings of others. We need to study again the Lord’s parable about the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:30-37), who reached out to help a man in need.

In 2010, Isabel Wilkerson published her award-winning book, The Warmth of Other Suns. (I highly recommend it.) The book presents a fascinating account of America’s Great Migration, which took place roughly from 1915 to 1970. It involved the movement of more than ten million African Americans from the southern United States mainly to cities in the North.

There’s never been anything quite like it in history. It radically changed the face of a nation, but relatively few have heard of it, or are aware of what precipitated it. Wilkerson tells the true and moving story of three individuals who were involved. In the process, she gives us a better understanding of race relations, and why this huge number of people fled the south.

As the author describes it, half a century after the Civil War, and “emancipation,” black people still were terribly oppressed and abused in the South. The threat of lynching continued, even into the 1960’s. Living as a black man or women was also difficult up north, as Wilkerson documents, but it was nothing like conditions in the South.

Why do I make reference to Wilkerson’s book? Because we need to be informed about the suffering of others. Christian people need to defend, and compassionately aid, those who suffer such cruel injustice, but we can also instill hope, encouraging them to see a better day ahead. In heaven, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face” (I Cor. 13:12).

That is the message of this hopeful song of Pastor Tindley’s. We’ll Understand It Better By and By was written in 1905 to give hope to those he knew were struggling. It speaks of a time “when the mists have rolled away,” and we’ll understand in a fuller way what the Lord has been doing.

CH-1) We are often tossed and driv’n
On the restless sea of time;
Somber skies and howling tempests
Oft succeed a bright sunshine;
In that land of perfect day,
When the mists have rolled away,
We will understand it better by and by.

By and by, when the morning comes,
When the saints of God are gathered home,
We’ll tell the story how we’ve overcome,
For we’ll understand it better by and by.

CH-2) We are often destitute
Of the things that life demands,
Want of food and want of shelter,
Thirsty hills and barren lands;
We are trusting in the Lord,
And according to God’s Word,
We will understand it better by and by.

Questions:
1) How have you been a “good Samaritan” to a stranger in need, over the past month?

2) Has someone been a “good Samaritan” to you in that time? (How did you respond?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 26, 2016

Then Jesus Came

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Oswald Jeffrey Smith (b. Nov. 8, 1889; d. Jan. 25, 1986)
Music: Homer Alvan Rodeheaver (b. Oct. 4, 1880; d. Dec. 18, 1955)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Oswald Smith)
Hymnary.org

Note: One evening in 1939, evangelist Harry Rimmer preached on John chapter 11, about how Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, and how the Lord raised Him from the dead. The evangelist described the sorrowful scene in the home of Mary and Martha (the sisters of Lazarus). Then, he paused, and with a shout of triumph cried, “Then Jesus came! That changed everything!”

Shortly afterward, song leader Homer Rodeheaver, who was in that meeting, asked Canadian pastor Oswald Smith to create a song on that theme. Inspired by the sermon, Smith wrote the gospel song entitled Then Jesus Came.

Over the last half century, the history of computer development is a record of growing capacity, increasing speed, and shrinking size.

The early monsters filled a room with equipment, and did only simple calculations. UNIVAC computers, in 1952, weighed 29,000 pounds (13,000 kgs), and cost a million dollars each. What a difference today! Our smart phones do more, access more information, and can be carried in a pocket.

Or take another field of endeavour. Until well into the twentieth century, Roger Connor was professional baseball’s home run king. He knocked in 138 of them, over an eighteen-year career. Then, along came Babe Ruth. Nicknamed the Sultan of Swat, he blasted in 714 homers in the twenty-two years he played. Connor averaged seven or eight home runs per year, Ruth averaged thirty-two. What a difference! He revolutionized the game.

Travel provides another example. In the nineteenth century, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the building of transcontinental railroads made remote corners of the globe more accessible than ever. The possibilities fascinated author Jules Verne. In 1873, he published his classic novel Around the World in 80 Days. It tells of a huge wager made by an Englishman on whether the title’s feat could actually be done. (It could, if conditions along the way were almost perfect.) But what a difference a century later! In 1980, a jet plane circled the globe in under sixty hours.

But all these differences pale when contrasted with what happened at the coming of Christ. In His miraculous conception, God the Son took on our humanity (Lk. 1:34-35). Then, in the three short years of His adult ministry, He taught the multitudes, and demonstrated His supernatural power again and again. He healed the sick, and raised the dead. He conquered demon powers, and repeatedly showed His mastery of the forces of nature.

But why did the Lord perform His miracles? Many, of course, had a benevolent purpose. They helped those who received them. But the miracles also demonstrated Christ’s deity, and authenticated His message (Acts 2:22). And they encouraged people to put their faith in Him. “These [miracles, or “signs,” as John calls them] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:30-31).

Then, after His years of wonderful ministry, Jesus died, crucified on a Roman gibbet. But even His death was different. For one thing, He didn’t remain in the tomb. On the third day after His burial He rose from the dead, conquering death and the grave (Matt. 28:5-6). And His death accomplished what no other could.

The Bible teaches that the Lord Jesus, though sinless, took upon Himself the punishment for your sin and mine (I Cor. 15:3; II Cor. 5:21). When we trust in Him as our Saviour, His payment of the debt of sin is credited to us, and we receive the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:16). And, when a seeking sinner trusts in Him, another life is touched with transforming power. What a difference He makes!

Paul, a proud Pharisee earlier called Saul, was filled with hatred toward all who put their faith in Christ (Acts 8:1, 3; 9:1-2). But he met the risen, glorified Christ on the road to Damascus, and his whole life was turned around. What a difference! He began serving Christ and preaching the gospel he’d earlier despised (9:20-22).

1) One sat alone beside the highway begging,
His eyes were blind, the light he could not see;
He clutched his rags and shivered in the shadows,
Then Jesus came and bade his darkness flee.

When Jesus comes the tempter’s pow’r is broken;
When Jesus comes the tears are wiped away.
He takes the gloom and fills the life with glory,
For all is changed when Jesus comes to stay.

4) So men today have found the Saviour able,
They could not conquer passion, lust and sin;
They broken hearts had left them sad and lonely,
Then Jesus came and dwelt, Himself, within.

Questions:
1) What differences has the Lord Jesus made in your life?

2) For whom are you presently praying that they would turn to Christ and be saved?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Oswald Smith)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 23, 2016

Sunrise Tomorrow

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: William Charles Poole (b. Apr. 14, 1875; d. Dec. 24, 1949)
Music: Bentley DeForest Ackley (b. Sept. 27, 1872; d. Sept. 3, 1958)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (William Poole)
The Cyber Hymnal (William Poole)
Hymnary.org

Note: Pastor Poole wrote about five hundred hymns, including Count Me, and Just When I Need Him Most. He says this about how he got started.

“My first appearance in print outside of local papers was in 1907. Since my twelfth year I had been writing verses in old composition books which I carefully concealed. Many of these verses were hymns. It was in 1907 that I ventured to send a manuscript to a prominent publisher and asked if it was worth keeping. They immediately referred me to Charles Gabriel, and he asked for more.”

The present song is usually called simply Sunrise. However, since this is followed by the word “tomorrow” a dozen times, and to make it easier to distinguish in indexes from Judson Van de Venter’s Sunlight, I’ve added the second word to the title.

They are sometimes called the golden years. But we all know they’re far from golden for some. I’m speaking of being a senior citizen, a person perhaps retired from a job, and receiving a pension.

Setting the beginning of this period at age sixty-five, as many governments have, was somewhat arbitrary. In the nineteenth century, German chancellor Otto von Bismark was the first to make it official. In the face of a crisis of destitute elderly citizens living in the streets in Germany, he picked sixty-five as the age of eligibility for pensions, based on the government’s ability to afford them for the surviving populace.

And what about seniors today? Likely you have seen those insurance advertisements on television. They may picture a smiling, silver-haired couple frolicking in the surf in some tropical paradise. It’s implied that, with the right insurance policy, we have this idyllic life to look forward to–the golden years. But for many the future is far different.

In reality, some will live from one pension cheque to another, struggling to put food on the table, buy medication, pay the rent, and so on. No thought of having enough money in retirement to travel to far-off places, and enjoy other costly pleasures. And not only a lack of funds, but poor health can be a major inhibitor. Not all are well enough in their senior years to enjoy an active lifestyle.

However, having said this, the picture need not be so bleak. The key is to have a perspective that focuses outward on others, rather than inward on personal troubles.

With that in mind, there some things that can brighten the picture considerably. One is having a circle of friends and family that we can be a blessing to (an outward look), and who can encourage us in return. We need those with whom we can enjoy a warmth of fellowship, on a regular basis. Another component is having at least one hobby we enjoy, and meaningful projects, again related to serving others (an outward look) that are within our ability and resources.

But a third factor is the spiritual one. If we are facing the future with the notion that this earthly life is a kind of dead-end street, that can be extremely depressing. If we have no certain hope of life beyond the grave we are, to borrow the words of Paul, “of all men most pitiable” (I Cor. 15:19).

Through faith in Christ, our ultimate future is not dark, but gloriously bright (Jn. 3:16). The promise of the Saviour is, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:2-3). And “to depart and be with Christ…is far better” (Phil. 1:23).

In 1924, there was a pastors’ conference down in Delaware. During the program, those present paid their respects to a retiring pastor who’d completed many years of faithful service. They saw it as the end of something worthy of note, but he confidently presented a different perspective.

“Do not feel sorry for me, brethren,” he said. “You see, the end of this life is not death, but resurrection unto eternal life; not a funeral but a festival. If God should call me home, it would be but the beginning of life eternal, You have the wrong emphasis when you speak of my having reached the sunset time of life. I am walking steadily into the sunrise of tomorrow.”

Pastor and hymn writer William Charles Poole was in attendance at that conference, and he was inspired by the man’s words to write a gospel song.

1) When I shall come to the end of my way,
When I shall rest at the close of life’s day,
When, ‘Welcome home,’ I shall hear Jesus say,
O that will be sunrise for me.

Sunrise tomorrow, sunrise tomorrow,
Sunrise in glory is waiting for me;
Sunrise tomorrow, sunrise tomorrow,
Sunrise with Jesus for eternity.

Questions:
1) What difference will it make to living now, if we view death as the sunrise on a perfect and eternal day?

2) If you are not yet of “retirement” age, what are you doing to prepare for that time of your life? (If you are a senior, what can you do to enhance those years?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (William Poole)
The Cyber Hymnal (William Poole)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 21, 2016

Someday He’ll Make It Plain

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Adam Geibel (b. Sept. 15, 1855; d. Aug. 3, 1933); Lydia Shivers Leech (b. July 12, 1873; d. Mar. 4, 1962)
Music: Adam Geibel

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Though he was blinded at the age of eight by an eye infection, Mr. Geibel became a successful composer, conductor, and organist, as well as a music publisher. He wrote the first verse and chorus (words and music) of this song. The rest was added by Lydia Leech, also an organist, and the author of around 500 hymns.

A slightly different version of the story of the writing of the hymn is given by Ernest Emurian (on the Cyber Hymnal page). What I’ve given comes from two different sources. There is also a difference in the use of “someday,” or “some day,” though the two seem very close. As to proper usage, the dictionary isn’t a great help. Apparently:

The adverb someday is written solid: Someday we will know the truth. The two-word form some day means a specific but unnamed day. [U-u-uh…?]

There are a number of sayings used to indicate something that is (or should be) obvious. In the 1500’s they used to say, “It’s plain as a pikestaff [ or packstaff], referring to the staff carried over the shoulder of a peddler, on which he hung a sack filled with his wares.

Today, we might say, “It’s as plain as the nose on your face.” Another common adage is, “It’s plain as day.” That’s likely a shortened version of, “It’s plain as the sun at midday,” a saying more than three centuries old.

But sometimes, what’s obvious and easy to understand by one, is not by another. For example, if the car breaks down, and you lift the hood, do you know where to look for the problem, and how to correct it? Some will, but others won’t. It takes a special kind of knowledge and skill to do car repairs. The same goes for dealing with what’s wrong when a computer stops functioning as it should.

Guessing what the issue might be, and doing something we think might help could get us in worse trouble than before. It’s better to wait until we can talk with someone who has the expertise required. Someone justified in saying the solution is plain as day to them.

In life, there are many things we do not know. Though it’s a good thing to plan ahead, and though we may lay our plans carefully for the coming days, we have no guarantees that we’ll be able to carry them out. “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Prov. 27:1; Jas. 4:14). And tomorrow’s unknowns affect our prayer life today, as far as knowing what to pray for. But the Spirit of God can help us with that. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought” (Rom. 8:26).

Life’s trials and tribulations raise many questions as well. Suffering Job cried in anguish, “Why did I not die at birth?” (Job 3:11). And often “why” questions like that go unanswered. We may know some of the things God is doing, but a full understanding awaits eternity. That is what hymn writer Adam Geibel came to realize.

Mr. Geibel’s son-in-law worked for a steel mill. Because he showed great promise, he was given experience in one department after another, with the object of future leadership in the firm. Then one day there was a terrible accident. A conveyor loaded with molten ore jumped the track, spewing it’s contents in all directions. Geibel’s son-in-law threw himself in front of some coworkers, trying to shield them, and he was burned to death.

The Geibels were heartbroken at the great loss. Adam had loved the young man like his own son and, after the tragedy, he fell into a deep depression. Christians continued to pray for him, but it seemed nothing would lift his spirits. But the day came when the man returned to his office, his face reflecting renewed peace and joy.

When asked what had happened he said:

“I kept asking God why? But I felt I could go on no longer in this attitude. Last night, as I was praying, the Lord Himself seemed to say to me, ‘Adam, someday you’ll understand all about it, for someday I’ll make it plain to you.’”

It was out of that new perspective that he sat down at the piano and wrote the music, and the initial stanza and refrain, of a new hymn–to which Lydia Leech later added two more stanzas.

1) I do not know why oft ’round me
My hopes all shattered seem to be;
God’s perfect plan I cannot see,
But someday I’ll understand.

Someday He’ll make it plain to me,
Someday when I His face shall see;
Someday from tears I shall be free,
For someday I shall understand.

3) Though trials come through passing days,
My life will still be filled with praise;
For God will lead through darkened ways,
But someday I’ll understand.

Questions:
1) What events or circumstances in your life are difficult to understand or explain?

2) What does the Lord expect of us when this happens?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 19, 2016

O Love Divine

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 17-7; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Purleigh, by Arthur Henry Brown (b. July 24, 1830; d. Feb. 15, 1926)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Charles Wesley wrote more than 6,500 hymns–some of them still used today. Several, including Jesus, Lover of My Soul, and Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, are considered among the best that we have, but there are many more: Soldiers of Christ, Arise; O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing; Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Depth of Mercy! Can There Be; And Can It Be? and Arise, My Soul, Arise, to name just a few.

Published in 1749, Wesley called this hymn “Desiring to Love.” According to a couple of sources, it is one of three of his hymns for which George Frederick Handel (1685-1759) wrote the tunes. Handel, of course, is the man who gave us the peerless oratorio, Messiah.

The word “love” is an important one to us. We hear it, and likely use it a lot. But it can also be one of the most confusing words in our language. It has so many different meanings, and shades of significance, we’re often unsure which is intended.

In tennis, a score of love means neither player has any points yet. They are, in a sense, playing for nothing, or playing for the love of it. The statement about two people that there’s “no love lost between them,” can mean one of two completely opposite things! It can signify they love each other so much they couldn’t possibly love more. Or, it can mean they don’t love each other at all.

A person can say he loves ice cream, or Chinese food, or loves his dog. But are these the same? And are they the same as loving his wife? Making love is something different again. And how is that related to being in love? And what about loving God? Should that somehow be distinguished from all our other loves?

In 1958, C. S. Lewis gave a series of radio talks on the subject, later published as a book entitled The Four Loves. In it he distinguishes: 1) affection for or the cherishing of another; 2) the bond of friendship; 3) romance or erotic love; 4) what the author calls charity, an unconditional love that is the highest form of all. Whether we fully accept Lewis’s definitions and conclusions, his work does highlight differences in the love we have for one another.

The second and fourth of the loves Lewis describes are prominent in the New Testament. In the original Greek language, some form of the word philos or phileo is found many times, representing friendship. It’s used when the Lord Jesus is described as “a friend [philos] of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19), and when Abraham is spoken of as “the friend of God” (Jas. 2:23).

But it is the fourth term (agape or agapeo in Greek) that is found by far the most frequently–over two hundred times. Unlike lust, it doesn’t focus on what one person desires to get from another. It as to do with giving, a selfless, unconditional desire to bless another. It’s the kind of love that has existed eternally between the members of the Trinity.

When God the Father speaks of Jesus as “My beloved [dearly loved] Son” (Matt. 17:5), He is using a form of this word. As the Bible is when it says, “ God so loved [agapao] the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Our love for God is described the same way. But it can’t be divorced from the best love we have for one another. As the Apostle John points out:

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (I Jn. 4:20).

The Bible says, “We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19). Our love for God, weak though it may be, is a responding echo of His infinite love for us. It’s that holy passion that’s the theme of the hymn by Charles Wesley.

The song references an incident in the home of Mary and Martha (Lk. 10:38-42). The use of the word “Bridegroom” to represent Christ is found in His own words, and in a parable He taught (Matt. 9:15; 25:1, 5-6). It pictures the time when the Lord returns to gather the church (His bride) to Himself, and rejoices with them (cf. Rev. 19:7-9).

CH-1) O love divine, how sweet thou art!
When shall I find my willing heart
All taken up by thee?
I thirst, I faint, I die to prove
The greatness of redeeming love,
The love of Christ to me.

CH-3) God only knows the love of God;
O that it now were shed abroad
In this poor stony heart!
For love I sigh, for love I pine;
This only portion, Lord, be mine,
Be mine this better part.

CH-4) O that I could forever sit
With Mary at the Master’s feet;
Be this my happy choice;
My only care, delight, and bliss,
My joy, my heaven on earth, be this
To hear the Bridegroom’s voice.

Questions:
1) What are some characteristics of God’s love for us?

2) What should be some characteristics of our love for Him?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley born, died)

Posted by: rcottrill | September 16, 2016

Jesus Led Me All the Way

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: John Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)
Music: John Willard Peterson

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (John Peterson)
Hymnary.org

Note: John Peterson wrote many singable songs on a wide variety of subjects. Sometimes he provided both words at music. Other times, one or the other, or he arranged the music of others. Here is a brief sampling of some of his songs that we’re still singing, decades after they were written.

All Things Word Out for Good
Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul
Isn’t the Love of Jesus Something Wonderful
It’s Not an Easy Road
Jesus Is Coming Again
Over the Sunset Mountains
Shepherd of Love
Springs of Living Water
Surely Goodness and Mercy

It’s a Latin proverb, a verbis ad verbera, roughly meaning: from talking to hitting! It speaks of how a verbal argument can sometimes escalate into an actual fist fight. In more general terms that has to do with cause and effect, the way particular results spring from what came before–how one thing has led to another.

There are examples of that in literature. In Shakespeare’s play, Richard III, the king is portrayed as a conniving villain. But author Josephine Tey, believing that to be a totally inaccurate picture, wrote a fascinating mystery story, The Daughter of Time, to set the record straight.

Author Robert Louis Stevenson was passing a boring afternoon drawing a map, when he began to envision a search for buried treasure, complete with pirates, and he set the map aside and began writing the classic Treasure Island.

Sometimes a book can lead, not just to the writing of another book, but to new inventions. Beginning in the 1920’s, in a series of adventure novels about a character named Tom Swift, the teen-aged fictional hero invented some amazing futuristic things–such as an electric gun, which later gave others the idea of the taser, and a “photo telephone” that inspired the creation of what we have now with our smart phones.

The same thing has happened in our English hymnody, one song has been a factor in the creation of another. The singing of the gospel song O How I Love Jesus led Philip Bliss to write the song Jesus Loves Even Me, focusing more on the Lord’s love for us. Margaret Clarkson grew dissatisfied with the more negative picture of missionary work in her hymn So Send I You, which moved her to write a new hymn (of the same name) to balance the picture.

The writing of the present hymn came about this way. In 1954, Christian musician Alfred B. Smith (1916-2001) was enlisted to lead the singing at the Founder’s Week Conference, at Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago. With some five thousand people gathered, many of them experienced singers, Smith said it was like leading one big choir.

At the close of one session, he had them sing Fanny Crosby’s song of faith, All the Way My Saviour Leads Me. What a thrill it was to all, as they sang together in four-part harmony, ending with “This my song through endless ages– Jesus led me all the way.” Smith himself was overwhelmed with that thought, and asked them to repeat the last line, softly, without the accompaniment of the great organ and the two grand pianos–

“Jesus led me all the way.”

God’s people can’t always see clearly how the Lord leads us along, but He does. Of the Israelites in the wilderness the Bible says, “You [Lord] in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed” (Exod. 15:13). Through many trials–and repeated failures to trust the Lord–He brought them at last to the Promised Land.

The New Testament says, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). It’s an identifying characteristic of the redeemed: “All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (NASB). And, “Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ” (II Cor. 2:14). Even when we go through times of difficulty and carry wearying burdens, we are on the winning side, and the Lord will lead us through to victory.

But, back to that conference session. It was broadcast over the radio, and listening in that day was another gospel musician, John Peterson. Shortly afterward, he met his friend Al Smith, and mentioned the great personal blessing the singing of Fanny Crosby’s hymn had been, with the repeating of “Jesus led me all the way.” To which Smith replied, “Why don’t you write a complete song, using Fanny’s last line as the title.” And he did.

1) Some day life’s journey will be o’er,
And I shall reach that distant shore;
I’ll sing, while ent’ring heaven’s door,
“Jesus led me all the way.”

Jesus led me all the way,
Let me step by step each day;
I will tell the saints and angels
As I lay by burden down,
“Jesus led me all the way.”

2) If God should let me there review
The winding paths of earth I knew,
It would be proven, clear and true–
Jesus led me all the way.”

Questions:
1) Looking back a few years, can you see instances of the Lord’s leading in events and decisions?

2) What are some of the means the Lord uses to lead His people?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (John Peterson)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 14, 2016

I’m Going Higher Some Day

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Herbert Buffum (b. Nov. 13, 1879; d. Oct. 9, 1939)
Music: Herbert Buffum

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (
Herbert Buffum)
Hymnary.org

Note: Herbert Buffum was born in Lafayette, Illinois. He began a preaching career at the early age of seventeen, serving with the Volunteers of America. That faith-based group, founded in 1896, is an offshoot of the Salvation Army, providing not only spiritual help, but affordable housing and other social services in the United States. It was also at the age of seventeen that Buffum was inspired to write his first gospel song, while sweeping up in a mission hall.

Mr. Buffum eventually served as a pastor, and then as a traveling evangelist. But it was as a musician that he made a special impact. He published around a thousand gospel songs, and he’s reported to have written thousands more that went unpublished. Like a number of other writers of sacred songs who also ministered publicly (such as Robert Harkness and Ira Stanphill), Buffum would ask those gathered for a meeting to suggest a theme, then he would write words and music for a song, on the spot.

Most of us likely have traveled in an airplane–some perhaps many times. We’ve sat there, buckled in, and felt that increasing pressure pushing us back in our seats, as the plane heads down the runway with increasing speed. And maybe, if we’re not too nervous, we’ve watched out the window as the ground suddenly dropped away. We’re in the air! And soon, the clouds, instead of being over our heads, are beneath us. Amazing!

Air travel hasn’t really been around for that long. Experiments with kites and balloons had been done for centuries, but heavier-than-air ships powered through the skies, not that long. It seems to have been the Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, who made the first true airplane flight in North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.

That’s just over a century ago, during which time we’ve not only made air travel a common thing, but powered rocket propelled vehicles to the moon and beyond. Small, flimsy bi-planes, with open cockpits, were used in the First World War. But it wasn’t until the early 1920’s that planes became reliable enough, and large enough, to begin commercial flights carrying passengers.

Seeing planes in the sky was still a novel sight in 1924, when Herb Buffum watched one humming along overhead on a clear day in Kansas City. As he watched that plane soaring above, he seemed to hear a voice in the engine’s sound, a voice that said, “Herbert Buffum, you’re going higher someday!” And that thought inspired him to write a song about heaven.

We usually think of God’s heaven as being up above us. But skeptics will mockingly ask, “Up from where?” After all, up from one side of the globe is in a totally different direction from a spot on the other side. Perhaps it’s up above the Israel, since it’s from there the Lord Jesus ascended back into heaven (Lk. 24:51). But it’s a detail God has not seen fit to explain to us.

What we do know is that the Apostle John ascended up into heaven to receive his prophetic revelations, and what immediately struck him on his arrival was that the throne of God is there (Rev. 4:1-2). We also know that the Lord Jesus is there, preparing a home for those who believe on Him, and that He’ll come back one day to take us there (Jn. 14:2-3).

Believers who die in the meantime are taken to be with Him individually. For Paul, “to be absent from the body” meant he would be “present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). And “to depart and be with Christ” was to him, “far better” (Phil. 1:21-23). For Herbert Buffum that wonderful graduation into the heavenly kingdom came on October 9, 1939.

It was then he experienced the fulfilment of his song, I’m Going Higher Some Day, a song that’s become a favourite of Southern Gospel singing groups. (Note: The fourth line of the refrain, “Going where none ever sicken or die,” is sometimes changed to, “To be with Jesus forever on high.”)

1) Often I’ve watched the clouds up in the sky.
Always I’ve heard they were many miles high;
Then as they sailed out of sight far away
I said “I’m going far higher some day.”

I’m going higher, yes, higher some day,
I’m going higher to stay;
Over the clouds and beyond the blue sky,
Going where none ever sicken or die.
Loved ones I’ll meet in that “sweet by and by;”
I’m going higher some day.

4) Soon will the Saviour from heaven appear,
Coming in clouds for His children so dear.
Friend, are you ready–with me can you say,
“I’m going higher, yes, higher some day.

Questions:
1) What differences have you observed between memorial services for non-Christians and for Christians?

2) What is your favourite gospel song about heaven?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Herbert Buffum)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 12, 2016

God Holds the Key

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Joseph Parker (b. Apr. 9, 1830; d. Nov. 28, 1902)
Music: Natchitoches, by George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

parker josephNote: Joseph Parker (whom some hymnals mistakenly call “John Parker”) was an acclaimed London pastor, a contemporary of Charles Spurgeon’s who, like Spurgeon, preached strongly evangelical sermons. Author Elgin Moyer says, “he became a champion of the poor, the ignorant, and the underprivileged” (Who Was Who in Church History, p. 320). It’s reported he gave much of his income to charity.

The tune by Stebbins is fine, but you can see from Hymnary.org that a number of books use a tune by David E. Roberts. It works well too, and is the one I’m more familiar with.

Many times, when we’re in need of information, we ask people, “Who knows?” For example, “Who knows where I can find a reliable plumber?” Or, “Who knows a restaurant where I can get a really good steak?”

The question can also be asked for dramatic effect, giving the answer too. In September of 1937 stories about a pulp fiction crime fighter called the Shadow started a long run on the radio. As each show began, an announcer intoned, dramatically, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? [Then came his answer.] The Shadow knows!” followed by mocking laughter.

Of course, it was completely make-believe. If law enforcement today truly had the power to know what was going on in the heads and hearts of criminals, they might be able to prevent crimes from happening, the way the Shadow did every week. But they don’t–and therefore can’t. Only God knows the full extent of the evil in the human heart (Jer. 17:9-10).

Sometimes the query is what’s known as a rhetorical question–a question intended to emphasize a point, but not expecting an answer. For example, suppose you ask a friend, “Do you think we’ll get a lot of snow this winter?” He might respond, with a shrug, “Who knows?”–implying that he certainly doesn’t know, and probably nobody else does, either.

In the Bible, a man named Mordecai asked one of those rhetorical questions for which he didn’t seem to expect a definite answer. The account is given to us in the book of Esther, one of the most exciting stories in all the Bible. By 483 BC, when the events depicted began, the Jewish slaves had been given permission, after seventy years in bondage, to return to their homeland and rebuild. However, some had settled down and raised families in Babylon (then known as Persia), and they decided to remain.

Among them was a beautiful Jewish woman named Esther, Mordecai’s niece. Through a series of events described in the first couple of chapters of the book, she had become the queen of Persia, the wife of King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes). Then in chapter three we’re introduced to a despicable villain named Haman, who plotted to have all the Jews in the empire slain.

It’s at that point her uncle asks Esther the question: “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Est. 4:14). But Mordecai wasn’t expecting a direct answer. At that point only the Lord knew. Her uncle simply wanted Esther to think about it. Perhaps, in the providence of God, she had become queen to be in a position to save her people. And that’s how things turned out. Through the chapters that follow, clever Esther foils the plot of Haman, and he is hanged. To this day, the Jewish feast of Purim celebrates their deliverance.

Who knows? The point of the book is that God knew, and He was working through the strange course of events to accomplish His purposes–which included the preservation of His people Israel, and thus of the kingly line through which Christ would be born.

“I am God, and there is no other…declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’” (Isa. 46:9-10).

This brings us to a hymn written by Joseph Parker, a hymn about life’s unknowns. When the future is uncertain to us, we can be fully assured, “Known to God from eternity are all His works” (Acts 15:18).

CH-1) God holds the key of all unknown,
And I am glad;
If other hands should hold the key,
Or if He trusted it to me,
I might be sad, I might be sad.

CH-3) The very dimness of my sight
Makes me secure;
For, groping in my misty way,
I feel His hand; I hear Him say,
“My help is sure, My help is sure.”

CH-5) Enough! this covers all my wants,
And so I rest!
For what I cannot, He can see,
And in His care I saved shall be,
Forever blest, forever blest.

Questions:
1) What things about the future of your own life do you sometimes wish you knew now?

2) What are some reasons why God may not reveal those things to you?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 9, 2016

From All That Dwell Below the Skies

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. For more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: Duke Street, by John C. Hatton (b. Sept. ___, 1710; d. Dec. ___, 1793)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Isaac Watts has been called the Father of English Hymnody. It was common in the church of his youth for congregations to sing only musical versions of the Bible’s psalms. But Watts argued that by doing this they were missing a lot of New Testament truth. He wrote hundreds of fine hymns, including his own paraphrases of the book of Psalms, but also new songs of praise to Christ. We see the hymn writer’s purpose indicated in the full title of the book in which the present hymn was originally published: Psalms of David Imitated, in the Language of the New Testament.

The tune, Duke Street, is also used with another of Watts’s hymns: Jesus Shall Reign Where’re the Sun. (The street was apparently one on which the composer, John Hatton, lived for a time.)

Because the song is extremely short–only two brief stanzas–some editors have added stanzas of their own, including the follow two for which the authorship is uncertain.

CH-3) Your lofty themes, ye mortals, bring,
In songs of praise divinely sing;
The great salvation loud proclaim,
And shout for joy the Savior’s name.

CH-4) In every land begin the song;
To every land the strains belong;
In cheerful sounds all voices raise,
And fill the world with loudest praise.

The word “universal” literally means that which is turned into one, or combined in one. It has to do with what concerns all, belongs to all, is experienced by all, or that which is present everywhere.

When we speak of the physical universe, we’re referring to all that has a material existence in all the vastness of space. Our knowledge of distant planets and stars is growing, but there’s still much we don’t know. Is the force of gravity we experience the same everywhere? Is the speed of light a universal constant? Conclusions have to be based on assumptions or theories, since we have not traveled the many light years required to experience these things.

But the word universal is used of earthly things, too. Nations speak of the goal of universal health care–by which they mean the cost of all medical treatments, and all medicines, for all diseases, is to be overed for all people. It’s what many hope for–and Canada does pretty well. But as any doctor or druggist will tell you, there are things that still aren’t covered.

There are things that are universal on our planet. The weather is one. Wherever you are, if you’re outdoors, you experience it. But as we know it can vary tremendously. All have weather, but not all have the same weather. As I write this, it’s a sunny day, and the temperature outside “feels like” 23 C (73.4 F). That’s shorts and tee-shirt time. But at the South Pole the current “feels like” temperature is a frosty -69 C (-92.2 F). Better break out the winter woolies if you’re going there!

There’s a more sobering thing that’s universal. All human beings die. Other than the intervention of God at Christ’s return, death is universal. “We will surely die” (II Sam. 14:14). “Wise men die; likewise the fool” (Ps. 49:10). “Death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). “It is appointed for men to die once” (Heb. 9:27). We have an appointment we all must keep.

But there is a more positive application of our word. Almighty God deserves universal praise and worship. He is worthy of the praise of all, and there are many calls for this in the Scriptures. “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the honour of His name; make His praise glorious” (Ps. 66:1-2). Of course, that is not happening yet in any truly universal sense. But it is true that all kinds of people everywhere praise the Lord. Male and female, old and young, people of all ethnic backgrounds, and so on, praise God.

Our hymns are one important means we use to praise God. One song from the pen of Isaac Watts, published in 1719, is a paraphrase of Psalm 117–which has only a couple of verses. It’s the shortest psalm in the Bible. A call to universal praise, the psalm says:

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” (Ps. 117:1-2).

Now see how Watts builds on the psalm and introduces related truths from the New Testament. It is Christ who is both Creator (Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:13-17) and Redeemer. “[He] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us (Tit. 2:14), “[we’re] redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18-19). Watts’s hymn says:

CH-1) From all that dwell below the skies,
Let the Creator’s praise arise;
Let the Redeemer’s name be sung,
Through every land, by every tongue.

CH-2) Eternal are Thy mercies, Lord;
Eternal truth attends Thy Word.
Thy praise shall sound from shore to shore,
Till sun shall rise and set no more.

The British government decreed that the black slaves of the West Indies were to be emancipated on August 1, 1834. But there were predictions of a violent revolt and payback attending this step. However, it never happened. A missionary reported:

“Our large chapel was literally crammed, and many stood in the yard exposed to the rays of the scorching sun, so anxious were the newly liberated people to express their thankfulness to God for the great deliverance He has wrought. It was announced that the Bible Society would present every freed slave with a copy of the New Testament. There were smiles all around, and tears of joy, as the multitude sang–virtually shouted–the last stanza of Isaac Watts’s hymn (CH-2).”

Questions:
1) What do you have to especially praise the Lord for today?

2) What is your favourite hymn of praise?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Isaac Watts born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | September 7, 2016

Carol, Sweetly Carol

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. For more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: Odenwald, by Theodore Edson Perkins (b. July 21, 1831; d. _____, 1912)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Fanny Crosby)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Among the more than eight thousand hymns she gave us, Fanny Crosby published this simple Christmas song in 1870. In some books you may see it credited to Frances Van Alstyne. That was her married name. In 1858, she married Alexander Van Alstyne–who was blind, as Fanny was.

Most of us are familiar with a number of Christmas carols. As the season approaches, they’re heard over the air waves, or sung by church congregations or carolers–even by those who don’t personally attach a religious significance to them. It’s part of a longstanding tradition. From the songs Angels We Have Heard on High, and Away in a Manger, to We Three Kings, and While Shepherds Watched, a couple of dozen of them are especially popular.

A “carol” is a song of joy and celebration, especially centred on the birth of Christ–at least, that’s according to the modern use of the word. But, many centuries ago a carol was something different. The Italian word, carola, referred to dancing in a circle, often to the accompaniment of singing (carolare). That accounts for the lively rhythm of some of the very early carols.

Participation in such musical “ring dances” goes all the way back to ancient Greece. But caroling closer to a more modern concept developed in Europe several centuries ago. Back then, carols were not just about Jesus’ birth. They celebrated the coming of spring, the gathering of the harvest, or other special events.

But gradually the carols focused more on the Saviour’s coming. And, as they were brought into the churches as a part of Christian worship, the music, though still joyful, reflected more of a sense of reverence. The lyrics also became more soundly biblical, and not as fanciful.

For instance, less desirable to many were carols such as I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In, from the seventeenth century, It describes Mary, Joseph, and the Baby arriving at Bethlehem in sailboats! But Bethlehem, of course, is an inland town with no port, and Jesus wasn’t brought there, He was born there.

Many of the ones we use today could also be described as Christmas hymns. And hymn historians generally consider Charles Wesley’s Hark, the Herald Angels Sing (published in 1739), and James Montgomery’s Angels from the Realms of Glory (from 1825), as the two finest carols in the English language.

The Puritans frowned on celebrations of all kinds as being worldly, and in the mid-seventeenth century Oliver Cromwell’s government tried to ban the singing of carols. It was only partially successful however, and with the coming of Queen Victoria’s long reign there was a renaissance of caroling. The Queen developed a fondness for Christmas carols, and she did a great deal to encourage people to gather for Christmas celebrations, and sing them.

Christmas is a time we set aside to remember the day when “the Word [Christ] became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). Whether we do so in a spoken testimony or in a song, it’s a momentous and history-altering event, worthy of our praise and worship. Mary rejoiced at the prospect of it. “Mary said: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour’” (Lk. 1:46-47). And Zacharias did also, saying, “The Dayspring [Dawning] from on high has visited us” (Lk. 1:68-69, 78).

Later, the angels celebrated His birth (Lk. 2:13-14), and the shepherds (Lk. 2:20), Simeon praised God for it (Lk. 2:28-30, as did Anna (Lk. 2:38). The wise men, also, some weeks or months afterwards, worshiped the Child, and gave Him gifts (Matt. 2:1, 9-11). Should we not celebrate the occasion too?

Fanny Crosby thought so. Here’s some of her song.

CH-1) Carol, sweetly carol, a Saviour born today;
Bear the joyful tidings, oh, bear them far away:
Carol, sweetly carol, till earth’s remotest bound
Shall hear the mighty chorus, and echo back the sound.

Carol, sweetly carol,
Carol, sweetly today;
Bear the joyful tidings,
Oh, bear them far away.

CH-2) Carol, sweetly carol, as when the angel throng
O’er the vales of Judah awoke the heavenly song:
Carol, sweetly carol, goodwill, and peace, and love,
Glory in the highest to God who reigns above.

Questions:
1) What Christmas traditions do you look forward to that are special to your family or friends?

2) How does your church put a special emphasis on “the reason for the season”?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Fanny Crosby)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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