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Words: Lucy Jane Rider Meyer (b. Sept. 9, 1849; d. Mar. 16, 1922)
Music: Ira David Sankey (b. Aug. 28, 1840; d. Aug. 13, 1908)
Note: Lucy Rider was an American educator, author and publisher. In 1885 she married Methodist Episcopal pastor Josiah Meyer, and became active in the denomination in the training of workers, both men and women. Mrs. Meyer wrote a number of hymns, including this passionate one about heaven called, O Homeland!
The word “homeland,” most basically, refers to the country of one’s birth, one’s native land. Those who come to Canada from elsewhere may grow to love their adopted country, but quite naturally they often feel a sense of attachment to the land where they were born.
In 1863, American author Edward Everett Hale published a short story called The Man Without a Country. It’s an example of what is called historical fiction, a story that creates fictional characters to interact with real people and events. Hale’s skill was such that many believed the central character, American Army lieutenant Philip Nolan, was a real person, though he was not.
In the story, Philip Nolan becomes friendly with Aaron Burr (a real person). When Burr is tried for treason, Nolan is accused of being his accomplice. Brought to trial, he bitterly renounces his country, shouting, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” After finding him guilty, the judge grants his foolish request, condemning him to spend the rest of his life aboard American naval vessels, with orders from the crew never to mention his country to him again.
For the next fifty-five years, the prisoner never sets foot on land, and never hears from anyone about what is happening in America. But slowly, over the years, he begins to appreciate the value of having a homeland, and he develops a deep love for his country. On board the USS Levant, he takes a crew member to his cabin, where he’s constructed a kind of shrine to his country. He has the officer read, from the Presbyterian Book of Public Prayer, a prayer he has offered morning and evening through the years:
“Most heartily we beseech Thee with Thy favour to behold and bless Thy servant, the President of the United States, and all others in authority.”
Each of us has a homeland or adopted country here on earth, and we should pray for its leaders, that all will have the peace and freedom there to worship and serve the Lord (I Tim. 2:1-4). But more precious by far, to Christians, is our heavenly home. While we may be citizens of a country here on earth, we have one infinitely more wonderful. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
When He comes, He will take us to the eternal home He is preparing for us. Jesus promised, “In My Father’s house are many mansions [dwellings, or homes]….I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:2-3). Paul confessed he had “a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23).
We can sense this same warmth of affection in Meyer’s hymn–though I do call to question her words in the second stanza picturing, in the heavenly city:
“[The] sound of children’s voices,
And shout of saintly song.”
Is she suggesting that infants and children who die and enter heaven will remain at that age for all eternity? It seems far more likely that each of us will be resurrected at the ideal adult age granted to Adam and Eve in the beginning, with mature faculties and powers so we can fully enjoy God’s blessings and serve Him. The only passage that speaks of boys and girls playing in the streets (Zech. 8:1-5) is more likely describing the earthly Jerusalem, and Christ’s earthly millennial kingdom, set up at His return (cf. Isa. 11:6-9).
CH-1) O Homeland! O Homeland!
No lonely heart is there,
No rush of blinding anguish,
No slowly dropping tear:
Now like an infant crying
Its mother’s face to see,
O blessed, blessed Homeland,
I stretch my arms to thee!
CH-3) O Homeland! O Homeland!
The veil is very thin
That stretches thy fair meadows
And this cold world between;
A breath aside may blow it,
A heart-throb burst it through,
And bring, in one glad moment,
The pearly gates in view.
Then Lucy Meyer turns her attention to Christ and His bride, the church, in Glory (cf. II Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7-9).
CH-4) O Homeland! O Homeland!
One–Chief of all thy band,
One–Lord of all the land,
Now standeth at thy portals
To welcome there His Bride;
And, resting on His bosom,
I shall be satisfied.
1) Are you passionate and patriotic about your own country? Do you pray regularly for its leaders?
2) Are you passionate about your heavenly home? How does this affect your life now?