Posted by: rcottrill | June 8, 2014

D-Day Commemoration

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A s I write this (on June 6th), we are marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied landing on the beaches of Normandy that was the beginning of the end of Nazi tyranny in Europe. The focus on the CBC Network has, understandably, been on the courage and sacrifice of the Canadian forces. The hour-long ceremony featured speeches by Prime Minister Harper of Canada, by Prince Charles, and several others.

During the laying of wreaths by various dignitaries and representatives of the military, three particular hymns were played. You can see more information about them on the links provided below. I realize that some involved were not people of faith, and perhaps they were even unfamiliar with the message of these hymns, but they are truly worth pondering.

1) Abide with Me
This beautiful hymn, one of the greatest in the English language, was written by Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847), shortly before his death. It takes its inspiration from the words of two disciples on the road to Emmaus, in their meeting with the risen Christ (Lk. 24:28-29). A couple of stanzas speak particularly to the solemn occasion today, as we are called upon to honour those who died at Normandy and afterward.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me!

I fear no foe with Thee at hand to bless:
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

2) O God, Our Help in Ages Past
Another of our greatest hymns, this one was written in 1719 by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) who, because of his early contribution of hundreds of hymns, has been called the Father of English Hymnody. The text is a paraphrase of Psalm 90:1-6. Two stanzas remind us of the brevity of life and the eternal God who stands above the flow of history.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

3) Fight the Good Fight
Written in 1863 by John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811-1875), the text is inspired by the words of the Apostle Paul, as he looks back on his life and ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ (II Tim. 4:6-8). I’ve always been struck by the closing couplet of one particular stanza:

Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.

He is both the only way of salvation, and the goal at the end of life’s journey. Nations in their glory and military might come and go, but life eternal is available through faith in Christ alone (Jn. 3:16; Acts 16:30-31), the One who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6). I trust He is your own dear Saviour.


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