Posted by: rcottrill | March 9, 2016

How Sweet the Hour

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Words: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24. 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: traditional Scottish melody used with Auld Lang Syne

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: I can only conclude that this song of Fanny’s is unfamiliar to most hymn book editors. Otherwise, I’d expect it to be included in hymnals along with Jeremiah Rankin’s God Be With You Till We Meet Again. Both are fine songs of Christian parting.

Auld Lang Syne is a song that’s often sung to welcome in the new year. It’s also been used at graduations, funerals, and farewells and, for years, the Boy Scouts organization sang it at the close of their jamborees. The song was a favourite of director Frank Capra, and he used it in three classic films: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

All of this, but perhaps many are unsure of the meaning of the repeated phrase. The words of the song are adapted from lines of verse written in 1788 by Scottish poet Robert Burns. “Auld lang syne” means, literally, old long since. When the refrain says, “We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, / for auld lang syne,” it means, “We’ll have a drink together, for the sake of old times.”

The song’s focus on imbibing an alcoholic beverage with one’s friends is brought out even more strongly in the poet’s original, though for those of us that don’t celebrate in that way, the “cup o’ kindness” will be something less potent!

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Without doubt the song was familiar to gospel song writer Fanny Crosby. But it brought to mind something more particular. She wanted to celebrate the special blessings that are ours when Christians get together. In 1894, taking the traditional melody, she created a lovely song about the fellowship of believers.

That’s a subject that is spoken of in the Word of God a number of times. It’s found first in the Old Testament, where the psalmist says, “ I am a companion of [knit together as kin with] all who fear You [God]” (Ps. 119:63). And we have Ruth’s lovely declaration to her mother-in-law, Naomi, “Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16).

This kind of bond was experienced by the early church, as Christians “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). Not only in meeting together to learn, but in service for the Lord the saints rejoiced in a warm sense of kinship, called “fellowship in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5). In all of this they also sensed also the promised presence of Christ (Matt. 28:20), and spoke of “the fellowship of His [the Father’s] Son” (I Cor. 1:9).

It is a link to be nurtured. The Bible urges, “All of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” (I Pet. 3:8). And, as with other close ties that are formed, there’s a sense of loss when Christians have to part. Paul ministered to the church at Ephesus for three years, and when he parted from the leaders:

“They all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more” (Acts 20:37-38).

However, that bleak parting word needs to be qualified. Though Christians may part to meet no more here on this earth, we have the wonderful prospect of meeting again, when Christ comes for His own (I Thess. 4:16-17). There is eternal fellowship to be enjoyed with “the whole family in heaven” (Eph. 3:15). That is the theme of Fanny Crosby’s song.

CH-1) How sweet the hour of praise and prayer,
When our devotions blend,
And on the wings of faith divine
Our songs of joy ascend!
’Tis then we hear in tones more clear
The gracious promise giv’n,
That, though we part from friends on earth,
We all shall meet in heav’n.

We all shall meet in heav’n at last,
We all shall meet in heav’n;
Through faith in Jesus’ precious blood,
We all shall meet in heav’n.

CH-2) How sweet the tie of hallowed love
That binds our hearts in one;
When gathered in the blessèd name
Of Christ, the Father’s Son!
And though the parting soon may come,
Yet in His Word is giv’n
The blessèd hope that by and by
We all shall meet in heav’n.

1) What is it about Christian fellowship that you especially enjoy?

2) What contribution do you believe you make to the richness and value of such fellowship?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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