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O Sing a Song of Bethlehem

Text by: Louis F Benson 1899

Generally sung to: Kingsfold, a traditional English melody

Here is a YouTube recording: http://youtu.be/nRXvyIjWEHQ

O sing a song of Bethlehem, of shepherds watching there,
And of the news that came to them from angels in the air.
The light that shone on Bethlehem fills all the world today;
Of Jesus’ birth and peace on earth the angels sing alway.

O sing a song of Nazareth, of sunny days of joy;
O sing of fragrant flowers’ breath, and of the sinless Boy.
For now the flowers of Nazareth in every heart may grow;
Now spreads the fame of His dear Name on all the winds that blow.

O sing a song of Galilee, of lake and woods and hill,
Of Him Who walked upon the sea and bade the waves be still.
For though like waves on Galilee, dark seas of trouble roll,
When faith has heard the Master’s Word, falls peace upon the soul.

O sing a song of Calvary, its glory and dismay,
Of Him Who hung upon the tree, and took our sins away.
For He Who died on Calvary is risen from the grave,
And Christ, our Lord, by Heaven adored, is mighty now to save.

 

Louis F Benson (1855-1930) was born and lived most of his life in Philadelphia, PA. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and was admitted to the Bar in 1877 and practiced law until about 1884 when left the legal profession and started his theological studies. He was ordained as a Presbyterian Minister in 1888. In 1894 he resigned his position and devoted the rest of his life to literary efforts. He is most well-known for his work on hymnody, writing several books about the history of various hymns, collections of hymns, and translations of hymns. His personal library numbered over 9000 volumes upon his death.

Benson spent a considerable effort in editing the text of the most commonly used hymns in the English speaking churches. Before his work, changes and revisions had been made to many hymns to such an extent the original meanings and theology were often completely altered; as it continues to this day. He listed five characteristics which define a good hymn: 1) lyrical quality; 2) literary excellence; 3) liturgical propriety; 4) a tone of reverence; 5) spiritual reality. His editorial efforts were directed to returning the hymn text to their original versions as much as possible. He would allow for some alterations but demanded the changes fit his criteria of a “good hymn” and did no damage to the author’s original text.

While this hymn is often used exclusively during the Advent and Christmas seasons, it can just as easily be used throughout the year. Within its four short stanzas it traces the ministry of Christ from his birth in Bethlehem, life in Nazareth, his work in Galilee, and finally his death at Calvary.

 




Fairest Lord Jesus

Author unknown

Generally sung to “Crusader’s March” This tune is sometimes known as St. Elizabeth. Composer of tune unknown. It first appeared in Schlesische Volkslieder (Sicilian Folk Songs) in 1842.

Here is a link for a YouTube recording:

“Crusader’s March” http://youtu.be/XW5bkIUQqZc

“Schonster Herr Jesu”  http://youtu.be/zxC2VlKjZC4 (a less commonly used tune)

1 Fairest Lord Jesus,
ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish,
Thee will I honor,
thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.

2 Fair are the meadows,
fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer
who makes the woeful heart to sing.

3 Fair is the sunshine,
fairer still the moonlight,
and all the twinkling starry host:
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer
than all the angels heaven can boast.

4 Beautiful Savior!
Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
praise, adoration,
now and forevermore be thine.

The first thing I would like to do, in this hyper-politically correct era, is deal with the title of the tune most commonly associated with this wonderful text. It is not, as the title might suggest, something which was sung by the crusaders on their way to liberate Israel.  The earliest evidence of the tune is from the Schlesische Volkslieder (Sicilian Folk Songs) which was published in 1842. Here the tune was known as: “Schönster Herr Jesu” (Most beautiful Lord Jesus).  Franz Liszt used the tune in his oratorio “The Legend of St. Elizabeth” (1862) for the Crusader’s March.  This is where the names “St. Elizabeth” and “Crusader’s March” originated.

As a song of adoration “Fairest Lord Jesus” is second to none. This hymn uses the physical world, and all of its beauty to set the beauty of the Lord Jesus as being even greater.

Here are some of the Scriptural references from the first stanza:

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

Mark 9:3 And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.

John 5:23 That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which hath sent him.

These poetic expressions of the beauty of Christ are developed and expanded through the balance of the hymn.

There is an important development with the 4th and 5th lines of each stanza. 1) Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, 2) Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer 3) Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer and finally 4) Glory and honor, praise, adoration, now and forevermore be thine. The song moves from our reactions towards the Son to ever more powerful descriptions of Jesus, each one building upon the previous. In the final stanza the initial: “O thou of God and man the Son,” becomes: “Son of God and Son of Man!” And with this the declaration that all glory and honor, praise and adoration, are forever Jesus’.




This is My Father’s World

By: Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901)

Usually sung to: Terra Beata by:  Franklin Shepherd (1852-1930)

Here is a YouTube recording:

http://youtu.be/ThlHAfnCUAA

1 This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas–
His hand the wonders wrought.

2 This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

3 This is my Father’s world:
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let earth be glad!

 

Maltbie Davenport Babcock was born in Syracuse, NY on August 3, 1858 and died in Naples, Italy on May 18th, 1901 as he was returning from a trip to the Holy Land. He graduated from Syracuse University and Auburn Theological Seminary in New York. After briefly serving two smaller congregations in Lockport, NY, he became the pastor at the Brick Church in Lockport. He would take frequent walks in the countryside surrounding his hometown which sat upon a hill overlooking Lake Ontario. He would often explain that “I am going out to see my Father’s world” as he set off on these outings. He was very athletic, having been recognized for his accomplishments in swimming and baseball at the university. He was also a skilled amateur musician playing both the organ and piano.

This poem originally had 16 four-line stanzas. Shortly after his death, his good friend Franklin Shepherd (1852-1930) adapted an old English folk melody he learned as a child and condensed Babcock’s poem to the form we find today. The tune he wrote for it he titled: “Terra Beata” which means: terra (earth) beata (blessed… as in “beatitudes”)

Recently, I came across three different articles which look at various cosmological issues of time, space, and dimensions. One was written from the perspective that if it were not for the absolute precision of the universe; so many aspects of cosmological history and law having to be exactly as they are, the universe couldn’t exist in its current state if this were not the case. The conclusion was there must be a God for this to have happened. Another looked at the same set of issues and concluded that this was proof that there was no God. The final article looked at the 10 dimensions of reality physicist/philosophers believe can be postulated. One of the most fascinating part of this article was the discussion of the 4th and 5th dimensions.  I won’t even begin to try to explain these; I will leave that to my physicist brother. But suffice it to say what was described as being knowable from these perspectives completely explained the Biblical concepts of Jerimiah 1:5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Or: Romans 8:29 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Existing outside of time (the 4th dimension) would put one in the position to see all of time in an instant and not experience it linearly as we must.

As I look out of my office window, I see snow covered ground, evergreen bushes, and bare, leafless trees. The sky is clear with only a few whiffs of clouds. This could be seen as either the end of life which winter inevitably brings to the north, or the season which is preparation for the return of life in the spring. Our understanding of time, the seasons, and God’s providence would determine how we understand the world we live within.

This is our Father’s world! All of nature loudly proclaims this to be true. From the cosmos filled with galaxies unknowable, whose light we finally see hundreds of millions and billions of years after it was made, to the strangest sub-atomic particles and dark matter we can only theorize about, we can rest assured that His hand is present.

For all we know about life, we still do not understand what it is which is life. Yet, this mystery we see all around us, the birds in the air and spider descending on a thin string, all share in this wondrous mystery. Everything which has the breath of life declares the wonder of our Father and his work. In this we should take eternal comfort. Though we cannot always understand why Evil might overcome Good for a day, God is the ruler over everything, it is our Father’s world, and in this we shall be glad.




The God of Abraham Praise

By: Thomas Olivers (1725-1799)

Commonly sung to: Leoni

Here is a YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/IDzjmW25HTg

The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days, and God of Love;
Jehovah, great I AM! by earth and Heav’n confessed;
I bow and bless the sacred Name forever blessed.

The God of Abraham praise, at Whose supreme command
From earth I rise—and seek the joys at His right hand;
I all on earth forsake, its wisdom, fame, and power;
And Him my only Portion make, my Shield and Tower.

The God of Abraham praise, whose all sufficient grace
Shall guide me all my happy days, in all my ways.
He calls a worm His friend, He calls Himself my God!
And He shall save me to the end, thro’ Jesus’ blood.

He by Himself has sworn; I on His oath depend,
I shall, on eagle wings upborne, to Heav’n ascend.
I shall behold His face; I shall His power adore,
And sing the wonders of His grace forevermore.

Tho’ nature’s strength decay, and earth and hell withstand,
To Canaan’s bounds I urge my way, at His command.
The wat’ry deep I pass, with Jesus in my view;
And thro’ the howling wilderness my way pursue.

The goodly land I see, with peace and plenty bless’d;
A land of sacred liberty, and endless rest.
There milk and honey flow, and oil and wine abound,
And trees of life forever grow with mercy crowned.

There dwells the Lord our King, the Lord our righteousness,
Triumphant o’er the world and sin, the Prince of peace;
On Sion’s sacred height His kingdom still maintains,
And glorious with His saints in light forever reigns.

He keeps His own secure, He guards them by His side,
Arrays in garments, white and pure, His spotless bride:
With streams of sacred bliss, with groves of living joys—
With all the fruits of Paradise, He still supplies.

Before the great Three-One they all exulting stand;
And tell the wonders He hath done, through all their land:
The list’ning spheres attend, and swell the growing fame;
And sing, in songs which never end, the wondrous Name.

The God Who reigns on high the great archangels sing,
And “Holy, holy, holy!” cry, “Almighty King!
Who was, and is, the same, and evermore shall be:
Jehovah—Father—great I AM, we worship Thee!”

Before the Savior’s face the ransomed nations bow;
O’erwhelmed at His almighty grace, forever new:
He shows His prints of love—they kindle to a flame!
And sound thro’ all the worlds above the slaughtered Lamb.

The whole triumphant host give thanks to God on high;
“Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” they ever cry.
Hail, Abraham’s God, and mine! (I join the heav’nly lays,)
All might and majesty are Thine, and endless praise.

Author: Daniel ben Judah (14th century) Title: Yigdal Elohim Hai

 

English translation (Wikipedia)

  1. Exalted be the Living God and praised, He exists – unbounded by time is His existence;
  2. He is One – and there is no unity like His Oneness – Inscrutable and infinite is His Oneness;
  3. He has no semblance of a body nor is He corporeal – nor has His holiness any comparison;
  4. He preceded every being that was created – the First, and nothing precedes His precedence;
  5. Behold! He is Master of the universe – Every creature demonstrates His greatness and His sovereignty;
  6. He granted His flow of prophecy – to His treasured, splendid people;
  7. In Israel, none like Moses arose again – a prophet who perceived His vision clearly;
  8. God gave His people a Torah of truth – by means of His prophet, the most trusted of His household;
  9. God will never amend nor exchange His law – for any other one, for all eternity;
  10. He scrutinizes and knows our hiddenmost secrets – He perceives a matter’s outcome at its inception;
  11. He recompenses man with kindness according to his deed – He places evil on the wicked according to his wickedness;
  12. By the End of Days He will send our Messiah – to redeem those longing for His final salvation;
  13. God will revive the dead in His abundant kindness – Blessed forever is His praised Name.

 

The relationship between the Christian Hymn “The God of Abraham Praise” and the Jewish Doxology “Yigdal” is reflective of the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament Church. Thomas Olivers was a man who had spent his youth in profligate living.  While living in Bristol, England, miserably poor and destitute he heard the preaching of George Whitefield. Whitefield was preaching on Zachariah 3:2 “2And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” Olivers was so moved by the message that he gave his life over to God and began to make amends to all those he owed money to. He initially wanted to join with the Whitefield movement but was discouraged from doing so. He eventually joined up with Charles Wesley and the Methodist movement. During this time he continued to work as a shoe maker. As his knowledge and skills as a preacher increased, he joined the Wesleyans as an evangelist in Cornwall.

One evening, Olivers attended services at a Jewish Synagogue where he heard the Cantor, Leoni, sing his Hebrew Doxology, the Yigdal. Olivers was so inspired by the experience, he adapted the tune and elements of the text to write one of the greatest of all hymns in Christendom.

The opening stanza is full of Old Testament imagery and references. The two greatest patriarchs of the OT are referenced; Abraham and Moses. When Moses asked of God in the burning bush who he should say had sent him, God answered: Gen 3:14  14And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Throughout the first three stanzas, Olivers draws from OT imagery, but half way through the third stanza he introduces aspects of the New Testament. The idea of God being a “friend” draws strongly from Jesus’s relationship to mankind. The phrase: “He calls a worm His friend” sets the stage for the coming act of grace through Jesus’ blood.

Through the next several stanzas the work of Christ is seen as flowing out of the Prophets and all that was spoken of in the OT. It is not seen as something separate, but rather as the ultimate conclusion and continuation of the story begun with Abraham. The story ends with the triumphant cry of “Holy, holy, holy! Almighty King, Who was, and is, the same, and evermore shall be: Jehovah – Father – the great I AM”. Abraham’s God and my God are the same! The living God, unbound by time, inscrutable and infinite. He is the first, there was nothing before Him. He is the Master of the universe, all of his creation demonstrates His glory and sovereignty. He spoke His word through the prophets and His word is unchanging. He knows all secrets and will visit upon each their due in the end. Yet, He has sent His Messiah to redeem His people, to pay the ransom for the final salvation of His people. Praise forever His Name, which is above all names. Amen.




I Sing the Mighty Pow’r of God

By: Isaac Watts 1709

Commonly sung to: “Ellacombe” and sometimes “Zerah”

Here are two YouTube recordings:

(Ellacombe) http://youtu.be/NI1aL8uAZCk

(Zerah) http://youtu.be/T59AmMKWIIo

 

  1. I sing the mighty pow’r of God, that made the mountains rise,
    That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
    I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
    The moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.
  2. I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
    Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
    Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
    If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.
  3. There’s not a plant or flow’r below, but makes Thy glories known,
    And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
    While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
    And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God, art present there.

Though Isaac Watts had no children of his own, he was very concerned with the education of children. He wrote an entire book of children’s songs called: “Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language, for the Use of Children (1715)” for use in worship and education. “I Sing the Mighty Pow’r of God” is the only one left in common use.

Its original title was: “Praise for Creation and Providence”. Though traditionally titles are taken from the opening phrase of the text, the original title covers the entirety of the text very appropriately. The first two stanzas speak to the various manifestations of God’s power and goodness. It is His power which made the mountains and seas and set the sun to rule the day and the moon the night. It is His goodness which filled the earth with food and made all of the creatures. In every aspect of the creation the providence and power of God can be seen; from the flowers to the storms, everything is in His order and care.

Much has changed in the 300 years since this text was penned. In Isaac’s time, life could be easily described and short and brutish. Disease, war, famine, and death were a daily presence. The notion that we should expect anything less if God was indeed “good” was inconceivable. Life was a continuous dance with death. Yet, out of this existence, which would be seen as utter barbarous to a 21st Century American gave rise to this exquisite recognition of the undeniable evidence of God’s hand in all of life. And we, as simply borrowers of life for a short time, must continue to see God’s presence in his creation and our experience of it.




For the Beauty of the Earth

Folliott S. Pierpoint (1835-1917)

Commonly sung to: Dix

by: Conrad Kocher, 1838

Here is a YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/JdLh3u-Qt50

1 For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the Love which from our birth
Over and around us lies:
Christ, our God, to Thee we raise
This our Sacrifice of Praise.

2 For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light:
Christ, our God, to Thee we raise
This our Sacrifice of Praise.

3 For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and brain’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Sinking sense to sound and sight:
Christ, our God, to Thee we raise
This our Sacrifice of Praise.

4 For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above;
For all gentle thoughts and mild:
Christ, our God, to Thee we raise
This our Sacrifice of Praise.

5 For each perfect Gift of Thine
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and Divine,
Flowers of earth, and buds of Heaven:
Christ, our God, to Thee we raise

6 This our Sacrifice of Praise.
For Thy Bride that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering up on every shore
This Pure Sacrifice of Love:
Christ, our God, to Thee we raise
This our Sacrifice of Praise.

7 For Thy Martyrs’ crown of light,
For Thy Prophets’ eagle eye,
For Thy bold Confessors’ might,
For the lips of Infancy:
Christ, our God, to Thee we raise
This our Sacrifice of Praise.

8 For Thy Virgins’ robes of snow,
For Thy Maiden Mother mild,
For Thyself, with hearts aglow,
Jesu, Victim undefiled,
Offer we at Thine own Shrine
Thyself, sweet Sacrament Divine.

 

 

 

 Elliot Pierpoint was an ardent Tractarian, also known as the High Church movement within the Anglican Church of England. This movement has deep historical roots dating back to the Tudor’s in England. As one of the most distant countries geographically which was ostensibly Roman Catholic, there was a history of a difficult relationship between local political and religious leadership and the Papal powers in Rome. While the Reformation certainly took hold in England, especially the Presbyterian and Reformed traditions, the break from Rome was much more nuanced than found throughout the rest of Europe. There remained, through much of the Church of England, a strong “High Church” practice and ethos which eventually manifested itself in the Tractarian movement. This movement started as an attempt to establish the Anglican Church as an apostolic church on par with the Orthodox and Roman branches. Ultimately, manly of its practitioners joined and assumed leadership roles in the Roman Church.

For the Beauty of the Earth is used by many different denominations, each one selecting various verses to fit within their traditions. This hymn was originally meant as a Eucharistic hymn, many hymn books change the refrain from “sacrificial praise” to “grateful praise” which would make the text appropriate for use in other parts of the worship service.

Pierpoint used nature as a starting point of a lot of his poetic writing. The first three stanzas reflect our sensuous (relating to our senses) appreciation of the creation; from the earth and sky, day and night, and mystic harmony of all creation. The rest of the stanzas address mankind’s experience of the relational. Starting with our immediate relationships of brother, sister, parent, child to those of friends alive and dead, all of these are included within the sacrifice which is our life. The next two stanzas deal with the divine sacrifice of love, which is seen in creation and the sacrifice of grace. The final two stanzas move from the human response of this divine sacrifice to a summary of the Gospel story of Virgin birth to the Divine Sacrament (crucifixion and resurrection).




Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

by: Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliot 1864  (July 22, 1836  – August 3, 1897)

Traditionally sung to: Margaret by Timothy Matthews 1876

YouTube recording:   http://youtu.be/2Pfhdlm9qJs

 

1) Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity:

Refrain:

Oh, come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee;

2)  Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth cam’st Thou, Lord, on earth,
And in great humility:

Refrain:

3)  The foxes found rest, and the birds had their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee:

Refrain:

4)  Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary:

Refrain:

5)  When heaven’s arches shall ring, and her choirsshall sing
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me up, saying, “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee!”

Closing Refrain

And my heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus!
When Thou comest and callest for me;
Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliot (1836-1897) was associated with the Evangelical Party of the Anglican Church (also known as the “Low Church Party”), she spent her life working with rescue missions and children in their Sunday Schools. For six years she edited a magazine called the Church Missionary Juvenile Instructor. She published at least two books of hymns, and “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” is the best known. She also wrote many books for children and early adolescents, most based upon some biblical moral theme.

She was a niece of Charlotte Elliott, author of the hymn: “Just as I Am.” Two of Emily’s uncles were Evangelical Party ministers, including Rev. Henry Venn Elliott, author of the hymn “Sun Of My Soul,” based on a poem by Rev. John Keble.

In Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne, Elliott weaves several Biblical images and scriptural references together to form a strong theological exegesis of Jesus Christ’s deity and role in our salvation. In Phillipians 2:5-8(KJV) 5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. This claim starts with Christ being in the presence and having equality with God. Yet he chose to empty himself of all the glory which was rightful his and become the humblest servant, even to His death on the cross. This is the opposite of the typical human understanding of humility as the not striving for something greater and accepting our low or humble position. In Christ we see the true example of humility as in leaving all rightfully glory and gladly accepting the lowest position available and serving there.

This descent into humility was proclaimed throughout heaven and earth by the angels as we read throughout the Nativity stories found in the Gospels.

The greatest irony is the Creator of earth had no home in His creation! If the master of the home has no place to rest his head, then no less should be expected of his disciples.

19And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.20And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

In the fourth stanza Elliot continues this theme drawing from the beginning of John’s Gospel. The Word, the very breath of God, became flesh to live amongst us and yet, we, the world rejected Him who made all of us.

John 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And 10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

Yet in the end the heavens and all the angels will declare the victory that is Christ’s.

9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.




Crown Him with Many Crowns

By: Matthew Bridges (1800 – 1894) and Godfrey Thring

For a YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/D7WdUonorUA

 

Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.

Crown Him the virgin’s Son, the God incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won which now His brow adorn;
Fruit of the mystic rose, as of that rose the stem;
The root whence mercy ever flows, the Babe of Bethlehem.

Crown Him the Son of God, before the worlds began,
And ye who tread where He hath trod, crown Him the Son of Man;
Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own, that all in Him may rest.

Crown Him the Lord of life, who triumphed over the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save.
His glories now we sing, who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of peace, whose power a scepter sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease, and all be prayer and praise.
His reign shall know no end, and round His piercèd feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend their fragrance ever sweet.

Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright.

Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, enthroned in worlds above,
Crown Him the King to Whom is given the wondrous name of Love.
Crown Him with many crowns, as thrones before Him fall;
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns, for He is King of all.

Crown Him the Lord of lords, who over all doth reign,
Who once on earth, the incarnate Word, for ransomed sinners slain,
Now lives in realms of light, where saints with angels sing
Their songs before Him day and night, their God, Redeemer, King.

Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.

Note – Matthew Bridges wrote verses 1, 4-6, & 9 in 1852. Godfrey Thring wrote verses 2-3 and 7-8 in 1874.

Matthew Bridges (1800-1894) was born and raised in the Anglican tradition and converted to Catholicism in his late forties. He had been an ardent anti-catholic in his youth, even writing a major polemic against Catholic practices. There is no extant writing of Bridges which explains the reasons for his conversion. He wrote between four and six verses of this hymn a few years after his conversion during when he was 51 years old.  While there are some references which are uniquely Roman, such as the “Fruit of the mystic rose, as of that rose the stem;” from the second stanza, most of the text is universally accepted. However, years later, in an attempt to purge all Roman references, Godfrey Thring, (1823-1903) also 51 at the time, wrote what is believed an additional 6 verses. Since then hymnals will usually utilize a combination of Bridges and Thring stanzas.

“Crown Him with many crowns” is based upon Revelations 19:12,

12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had[a] a name written that no one knew except Himself.

Also Rev  5:11-14

11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;

12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.

13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

And also possibly Revelations 19:12

12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had[a] a name written that no one knew except Himself.

 

The various stanzas touch upon the key doctrines and images of the Christian faith. Starting with the identification of The Lamb of God who died and is the matchless King for all of eternity. The second stanza declares the virgin birth. This is followed by a description of the Sonship of Christ both of God and Man. The fourth stanza explains the resurrection and Christ’s victory over the grave. The final 5 stanzas all deal with the rule of Christ and the results of salvation; his rule of peace throughout the world, his heavenly glorification, and his ransom and redemption of sinners.




Praise Ye the Lord, The Almighty  by Joachim Neander 1650-1680

Translated by Cathrine Winkworth 1827-1878

Tune: Lobe den herren (composer unknown)

For a YouTube recording:  http://youtu.be/AqdGw7qTSlU

1 Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear; Now to his temple draw near,
Join me in glad adoration.

2 Praise ye the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reignth;
Sheltering thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustainth!
Hast thou not seen How they desires e’er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

3 Praise ye the Lord, who will with marvelous wisdom hath made thee,
Decked thee with health, and with loving hand guided and stayed thee;
How oft in grief hath not He brought thee relief,
Spreading His wings for to shade thee!

4 Praise ye the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before him.
Let the Amen Sound from his people again;
Gladly for aye we adore him.

This hymn is a free paraphrasing of Psalm 103: 1-6

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

2 Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.

A stronger call to praise the Lord would be hard to find in all of Christendom! The author, Joachim Neander lived but a short 30 years, dying from tuberculous, but within that period he became the most important hymn writer for the German Reformed Church.  He wrote many hymns which are used in Lutheran and Reformed churches today. Neander had a difficult time during his short life and often sought refuge from his difficulties in the country side. He frequently wandered in the area around the Dussel River. This area became known as the Neanderthal (thal means “valley” in German) and in this area the proto humanoid skeletons of the Neanderthal were found.

In many of Neander’s poems we find a strong identification with creation as a starting point. In the very first phrase we are called to praise the King of the creation. The mention of “health” in the second phrase is an example of some of the liberties the translator took to make the text more “relevant” to what was currently of interest to the culture and is not mentioned in the original text.

The second stanza reiterates the declaration of the Lord’s sovereignty over all things. We are sheltered under his wing and sustains us in all of our needs and desires.

Again, in the third stanza it is the wisdom of the Lord which made us, given us health, and with his loving hand guided and protected us. Out of our grief he brings us relief and with his wing he shades us.

In the final stanza, everything within myself, my breath and life must declare his praises. And all of his people must also declare their adoration for Him, the creator and sustainer of us all!




Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies

By Charles Wesley 1740

Here is a link to a recording of this hymn: http://youtu.be/bjgPTZn4nSY

1 Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

2 Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by thee;
Joyless is the day’s return,
Till thy mercy’s beams I see;
Till they inward light impart,
Cheer my eyes and warm my heart.

3 Visit then this soul of mine;
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.

Charles Wesley wrote nearly 9000 poems in his life time, with over 6000 of them suitable for use as a hymn. This particular hymn is a great example of his writing, illustrating the theological depth and understanding present in his other works. Within these three short stanzas, there are over 20 direct scripture references.

From the first line, Wesley begins to paint an image of the salvific work of Christ. While it would not be unusual to say that: God’s glory fills the sky, it is a new and bold statement to say that Christ’s glory fills the sky. This Christ, this Jesus, is the true and only light. Carrying on with the theme of light, he makes another unexpected point; instead of using the usual “Son of Righteousness” he uses “Sun of Righteousness”. This comes from Malachi 4:2:  (2But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.) “Day-spring” and “Day-star” also come from scriptural references ranging from Revelations 22:16, Luke 1:78 and Isiah 14:12.

The second stanza describes the life without Christ’s light. Without the Morning Light, the day is joyless. Not until the inward light of Christ is present is our heart warmed. Without the presences of the Christ, life is dark and meaningless.

The gloom of sin and grief is only cast away with the presence of the light of Christ. This light scatters our unbelief and fills us with joy for that perfect day. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

May the Light of Christ which drives out the darkness of sin and despair fill you with the peace which is beyond understanding.