Posted by: rcottrill | December 5, 2010

Today in 1830 – Christina Rossetti Born

Christina Georgina Rossetti was born in London, into a family of brilliant artists and authors. She was considered to have a beauty of face that had a “religious” quality, and she was a model for a number of famous painters in her day, such as James Whistler and William Holman Hunt. Family friends included Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland).

Christina was shy and retiring, but a woman with strong Christian convictions. She turned down at least one offer of marriage from a man for who she had great affection, being concerned about significant differences in their beliefs. Christina Rossetti published three books of poetry and four devotional books. At its best, her poetry compares favourably with that of the most prominent English poets. Her most famous song is a Christmas carol called In the Bleak Midwinter. (The tune was composed by classical composer Gustav Holst.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

(2) Today in 1855 – Judson Van DeVenter Born
Judson Wheeler Van DeVenter was born and raised in Michigan. He studied both music and art–in fact toured Europe in 1885 visiting famous art galleries and studying painting. For several years he taught art and penmanship in public schools, finally becoming the supervisor of art in the high school of Sharon, Pennsylvania.

During those years, Van DeVenter was an active layman in the Methodist Episcopal Church. he sang in the choir, and eventually obtained a license to preach. Then he began evangelistic work, traveling throughout America, England and Scotland. He spent the last years of his life in Florida, where he had a significant influence on a young evangelist named Billy Graham. Billy says Judson Van DeVenter was a frequent visitor at the Florida Bible Institute in the late 1930’s, and the students loved to gather in his home for fellowship and singing.

Mr. Van DeVenter published a number of gospel songs that are still in use, such as: I Surrender All, Sunlight in my Soul, and We Shall Shine as the Stars. Concerning the first of these, the author said:

I had struggled between developing my talents in the field of art and going into full-time evangelistic work. At last the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life. I became an evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and touching a tender chord, He caused me to sing.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Saviour,
I surrender all.

Here is a nicely sung version of I Surrender All. But… (pet peeve coming, here) to me, the incessant  percussion is just a distraction. It does nothing for the song whatsoever. For more about the problem of drums in the services of the church, see the article Drums in Worship.

We Shall Shine as the Stars was inspired by a prophecy in the book of Daniel: “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).

We may tarry awhile here as strangers,
Unnoticed by those who pass by;
But the Saviour will crown us in glory,
To shine as the stars in the sky.

We shall shine as the stars of the morning,
With Jesus the Crucified One;
We shall rise to be like Him forever,
Eternally shine as the sun.

And one final song from this good man: Sunlight, about the difference Christ can make in a life.

I wandered in the shades of night
Till Jesus came to me
And with the sunlight of His love
Bid all my darkness flee.

Sunlight, sunlight in my soul today,
Sunlight, sunlight all a long the way;
Since the Saviour found me,took away my sin,
I have had the sunlight of His love within.

(3) Today in 1924 – William Neidlinger Died
William Harold Neidlinger played the organ at St. Michael’s Church, in New York City. He also conducted several men’s and women’s choirs, and taught vocal music. Neidlinger put together a book entitled Small Songs for Small Singers that was used as a standard text in the kindergartens of America for many years. Research for this volume awakened his interest in child psychology to the extent that he eventually abandoned his music career and established a school for handicapped children in East Orange, New Jersey.

Mr. Neidlinger has given us only one song in common use, the Christmas carol entitled The Birthday of a King.

In the little village of Bethlehem,
There lay a Child one day;
And the sky was bright with a holy light
O’er the place where Jesus lay.

Alleluia! O how the angels sang.
Alleluia! How it rang!
And the sky was bright with a holy light
’Twas the birthday of a King.


  1. Thank you for visiting my blog and for this information about William Neidlinger. All the best to you in this Advent season.

    • Thanks, and same to you. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the Christmas bustle and lose sight of the One whose birth we celebrate. After all, “Jesus is the reason for the season!” Merry Christmas!

  2. Thanks for the information on Judson van Deventer. I love the hymn I Surrender All, partly because in my walk with the Lord, it is ALWAYS the issue of unconditional surrender to Him that causes me my greatest struggles, greatest heartaches, and, once I do surrender, gives me my greatest joys.

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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