Intentional memorizing has always been difficult for me. But sometimes when I lie awake during the night I remember the words to hymns, quite often all of the words. Last night it was this one that came to mind. It must have been a favorite of my father because we frequently sang it in church. Like many hymns it is best when sung in its entirety.
The phrase I first remembered last night was “Take away our bent to sinning; Alpha and Omega be; End of faith as its beginning; set our hearts at liberty.” Newer hymn books have substituted “Take away our love of sinning” for “take away our bent to sinning”. I don’t like it. It does not mean the same thing. “Bent” reminds me that I am by nature twisted away from purity and truth, and I need help getting straight before I understand sin at all. Important also, when I remember I lean toward sin I can be proactive and preventative. Not all sin I commit is directly caused by my “love of sinning”.
What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light Called through the night to find my distant soul And from His scars poured mercy that would plead for me That I might live and in His name be known
So I will go wherever He is calling me I lose my life to find my life in Him I give my all to gain the hope that never dies I bow my heart take up my cross and follow Him
What grace is mine to know His breath alive in me Beneath His wings my wakened soul may soar All fear can flee for death’s dark night is overcome My Savior lives and reigns for evermore
So I will go wherever He is calling me I lose my life to find my life in Him I give my all to gain the hope that never dies I bow my my heart take up my cross and follow Him I bow my heart take up my cross and follow Him
1 Break forth, O beauteous heav’nly light, and usher in the morning; O shepherds, shrink not with affright, but hear the angel’s warning. This Child, now weak in infancy, our confidence and joy shall be; the pow’r of Satan breaking, our peace eternal making. 2 Break forth, O beauteous heav’nly light, to herald our salvation; He stoops to earth–the God of might, our hope and expectation. He comes in human flesh to dwell, our God with us, Immanuel; the night of darkness ending, our fallen race befriending.
We need hymns that burn the character of God into our hearts and minds. We need hymns that are actually about the truth of the gospel; while we were dead in our sins, unable to save ourselves, God stepped in and gave us Jesus. We need hymns that do not ignore the depravity of the human condition, and point to our hope in Christ. And we need hymns that are actually hymns, not vapid radio songs written for mass consumption. Hymns written by people who actually understand the history of Christian worship.
That’s why I’ve increasingly found myself eschewing anything new in favor of the riches of older strains of hymnody. I’ll gladly make exceptions when new hymns appear that are beautiful and theologically rich in their own right. Until then, I’ll just stick with the jewels we’ve inherited from the past generations. Heck, some of them have fallen so far out of our collective memory, they might seem new all over again!
I watched a BBC production of Christ Church Choir today which included a brief interview with Dr. Allan Chapman, a science historian, of Wadham College. At one point he was asked “What would you say is the value of faith through your general life?” His answer, “Utterly fundamental.”
Immediately my mind remembered C. S. Lewis’s comment, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Today my sister, Ruth, handed me this book, with a post-it sticker that said “Annita”. She knows I enjoy old books. I’m not sure if she recognized the author from our hymnbook in Ashaway. But I did. From our old brown hymnbook, The Service Hymnal : “Take My Life, and Let It Be”; “Lord, Speak to Me”; “Who Is on the Lord’s Side?”; “True-Hearted, Whole-Hearted”; and “I Gave My Life for Thee.” There are only two more, which I do not remember singing. My Dad, obviously liked the ones I remember.
The book is well organized and I know I will enjoy it. The index in the forward is also interesting. It is divided into topics such as “Ministry of Song” and “Early Poems”. I love that it includes dates and often where it was written.
Down near the bottom, “Hidden in Light” was written in Harlech. (thinking about those Men of Harlech).
The past 15 years or so I have been worshipping with a Presbyterian church. During that time I’ve been introduced to some old hymns that I really like. One of them we are singing this week, “The God of Abraham Praise.” It sounds so Jewish to me, which makes sense because, according to the hymn book, the tune was adapted from a “Traditional Hebrew melody.” And the subject is praising God, who was also the God of Abraham, and the Jewish people.
I love how hymns like this remind us of timeless truths about God and the Church. Much of the phraseology comes straight from the Old or/and New Testaments. They are based on scripture and truth and promises, not at all focused on ourselves, but rather on God.
For many years it was the tradition for Salvation Army band members to get up at the crack of dawn on Christmas Day and wake the town with the Christmas song “Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn.”
Here is Salvation Army officer Major Alan Young playing it on his cornet for the village of Pill in North Somerset, England…
Christians, awake, salute the happy morn,
whereon the Savior of the world was born;
rise to adore the mystery of love,
which hosts of angels chanted from above;
with them the joyful tidings were begun
of God incarnate and the Virgin’s son. . . .
Oh, may we keep and ponder in our mind
God’s wondrous love in saving lost mankind!
Trace we the babe, who hath retrieved our loss,
from his poor manger to his bitter cross.
Tread in his steps, assisted by his grace,
Till man’s first heavenly state again takes place.
Then may we hope, th’angelic throngs among,
to sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song;
he that was born upon this joyful day
around us all his glory shall display;
saved by his love, incessant we shall sing
eternal praise to heav’n’s almighty King.”