Posted by: rcottrill | May 9, 2014

Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam

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Words: Nellie Talbot (no information available)
Music: Edwin Othello Excell (b. Dec. 13, 1851; d. June 10, 1921)

Wordwise Hymns (Edwin Excell)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Around the year 1900, a Sunday School teacher in Missouri named Nellie Talbot was wondering what she could share with the children in her class. She thought of the sunlight that brightens God’s creation, and she wrote a little song that draws a parallel between that and what our lives should do in a dark world. (Some books entitle the song I’ll Be a Sunbeam.) In my view, this is one of the better gospel songs for children, offering practical counsel and help.

The Companion to the Songbook of the Salvation Army has a slightly different account of the song’s origin–though the two may be compatible.

“Miss Talbot, visiting London as a delegate from her Sunday School, is said to have written these words at the special request of the children of the family with whom she stayed” (p. 264).

We know nothing more about the authoress. Likely she is destined to remain in obscurity. We do know that gospel song writer Edwin Excell supplied the tune, and he dedicated the song to his grandson, Edwin Junior.

Sunlight has many uses. At the right time and place it can be a great benefit. It illuminates and warms, and fosters growth and restoration. It also can cleanse. American Justice Louis Brandeis, speaking of the importance of openness and transparency in social institutions as a preventative of corruption, famously said, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

Sunlight can also have a cheering effect. The patient in a hospital bed brightens with the coming of the dawn. And the prisoner can draw new hope from the sunbeams that flood through the bars of his cell window.

The song of Deborah, after the Lord gave the Israelites’ victory in battle, expresses the prayer, “Let those who love Him [the Lord] be like the sun when it comes out in full strength” (Jud. 5:31). Similarly, we have the words of Jesus, “You are the light of the world….Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16).

Christ is the primary light, the Source of the light of eternal life (Jn. 8:12). Before we trusted in Him we walked in darkness, but God’s salvation turns us from darkness to light (Acts 26:18). Now, through faith, “You are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). When believers obey Him and serve Him, we become reflectors, passing on His light, to the glory of God. In a “crooked and perverse generation,” we are to “shine as lights in the world, holding fast [or holding forth] the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16).

CH-1) Jesus wants me for a sunbeam,
To shine for Him each day;
In every way try to please Him,
At home, at school, at play.

A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam;
A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
I’ll be a sunbeam for Him.

We ought to be loving in our relationships, and reflect the joy of the Lord (CH-2). But human nature being what it is, we can sometimes have trouble doing that. With that weakness in view, Miss Talbot provides the answer. We can ask the Lord to help us (CH-3).

CH-3) I will ask Jesus to help me
To keep my heart from sin,
Ever reflecting His goodness,
And always shine for Him.

The final stanza of the song expresses an important truth. That Christians are in the service of the Lord, and there’s no “holiday” from that. We serve Him “moment by moment.” Our daily lives are to be a witness for Him, as we live our days for His glory.

CH-4) I’ll be a sunbeam for Jesus;
I can if I but try;
Serving Him moment by moment,
Then live with Him on high.

1) What are some practical ways you can shine for Jesus, today?

2) How does a Christian’s light grow dim? And what can be done about it?

Wordwise Hymns (Edwin Excell)
The Cyber Hymnal


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