Posted by: rcottrill | January 14, 2010

Today in 1985 – Avis Christiansen Died

Avis Marguerite Burgeson Christiansen is an American hymn writer who lived her whole life in the city of Chicago. She produced hundreds of hymn poems over a period of some six decades, making her one of the more significant gospel song writers of the twentieth century. She said:

All of my songs have come from my own heart experiences with the Lord through more than sixty years of writing for his glory.

Here are just a few of her songs found in our hymn books:

Blessed Redeemer
*Come, Come, Ye Saints
Fill All My Vision
How Can It Be?
I Know I’ll See Jesus Some Day
It Is Glory Just to Walk with Him
Jesus Has Lifted Me
Jesus! Wonderful Name
Love Found a Way
Only One Life to Offer
Precious Hiding Place
What Must I Do?

*Come, Come, Ye Saints is Avis Christiansen’s adaptation of a Mormon hymn, using little more of the original than a revised version of the first stanza. And where the Mormon hymn speaks of the sect seeking a place to live in the American West (which eventually turned out to be Utah), Avis’s song points Christians to our heavenly home. For more about this song, see Today in 1846.

Published in 1961, How Can It Be? will remind some hymn lovers of Charles Wesley’s great hymn And Can It Be? In the song, Christiansen seems to allude to Psalm 8, and the glorious privilege given to man to be the crown of God’s creation. That God should love and honour such poor creatures of dust is a marvel beyond comprehension.

O Saviour, as my eyes behold the wonders of Thy might untold,
The heav’ns in glorious light arrayed, the vast creation Thou hast made–
And yet to think Thou lovest me–my heart cries out, “How can it be?”

As at the cross I humbly bow and gaze upon Thy thorn-crowned brow,
And view the precious bleeding form by cruel nails so bruised and torn,
Knowing Thy suff’ring was for me, in grief I cry, “How can it be?”

The author’s song of dedication Only One Life ponders the significance of the days and hours God has allotted us, and the importance of being good stewards of them. It was apparently inspired by the words of missionary to China C. T. Studd, who wrote:

Only one life, ’twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life to offer–Jesus, my Lord and King;
Only one tongue to praise Thee and of Thy mercies sing;
Only one heart’s devotion–Saviour, O may it be
Consecrated alone to Thy matchless glory,
Yielded fully to Thee.

Only this hour is mine, Lord–may it be used for Thee;
May ev’ry passing moment count for eternity;
Souls all about are dying, dying in sin and shame;
Help me bring them the message of Calv’ry’s redemption
In Thy glorious name.

The prayer hymn Fill All My Vision has a similar theme to the older Be Thou My Vision, though Mrs. Christiansen’s song is more specifically Christ-centred.

Fill all my vision, Saviour, I pray,
Let me see only Jesus today;
When through the valley Thou leadest me,
Give me Thy glory and beauty to see.

Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine;
Fill all my vision, that all may see
Thy holy image reflected in me.

Fill all my vision–let naught of sin
Shadow the brightness shining within’
Let me see only Thy blessed face,
Feasting my soul on Thine infinite grace.

For a little more on Avis Christiansen and information on two more of her songs, see Today in 1895.


  1. […] Lance Latham has also made a mark, though a less significant one, in the area of sacred music. The boy’s mother was his first piano teacher. By the age of five he could play any hymn in the hymnal, and he was the regular pianist of the Primary Department of the Sunday School. By the age of twelve, his dazzling renditions of Bach, Beethoven and Liszt were enjoyed by his friends. He has found his way into many of our hymn books by writing the tune for Avis Christiansen’s gospel song, Blessed Calvary. (To learn a bit more about Mrs. Christiansen, see Today in 1895, and Today in 1985.) […]

  2. […] became the worldwide Awana Youth Association. (For more on the songs of Mrs. Christiansen, see Today in 1985.) For more on Lance Latham, see the third item under Today in 1685.) The Christiansen and Latham […]

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns (Avis Christiansen born, died) The Cyber […]


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