Hymns: At the Name of Jesus

“…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:10-11

Let’s just say I’m in a particularly good mood right now. The paperwork I’ve been stressing about and worrying about for the past month or so is finally on its way to France. I’ve got one exam left, in a week’s time. The weather is fantastic. (Maybe even a little too warm…). At times like this it’s really easy to see God and praise Him for His goodness.

This hymn is lovely. Lively and upbeat, and summarising creation, Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension. And then giving hope and encouragement, particularly when things are harder. It’s not always easy to praise God, although it’s something that I try to remind myself to do.

This hymn summarises exactly why I do that. Why I remind myself to praise God. Why I praise God in the first place. I love a hymn with a long list of scripture references. And so many are from the Gospels, or from Paul’s encouraging letters. The opening line comes from Philippians. Side note, we studied Philippians in CU last term. And I really loved studying it. Put simply, Paul and the Philippians are #cugoals

Anyway. We have such a hope in Jesus, and it’s so great to be able to praise Him with such a joyful, uplifting hymn that captures this hope so well.

Hymns: Thine Be The Glory

I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
    I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
    Where, O grave, is your destruction?” – Hosea 13:14

What a great Easter hymn! It’s so joyous and bright, a wonderful reminder of Jesus’ death and resurrection. A reminder to be joyful – “Let the Church with gladness hymns of triumph sing/For her Lord now liveth, death has lost its sting!”. A reminder that God should be given all the glory.

Easter is a wonderful time of year, a fantastic celebration, and it’s such a privilege to worship God, partly through such hymns as this.

The music here really makes a good hymn great, especially as it’s usually sung on Easter Day, with a full church, the organ at full blast and a modulation in the final verse.

It’s kind of sad that as soon as Easter was over, it was straight back to work, essays and deadlines. But then again there is no better reason to praise God, and it is such a privilege to be able to celebrate it not only at Easter, but throughout the year.

Hymns: Tell Out, My Soul

Luke 1:46-55

Tell Out, My Soul is such a joyful song, based on the words of the Magnificat, or Mary’s Song. It’s a song of praise and thankfulness, and rejoices in God’s faithfulness, might, power, and holiness.

Perhaps my favourite verse is the final one – purely for the last two lines:

“Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord,
To children’s children and forever more!”

This reminds me of Psalm 145:2-3:

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.”

God is so great – and this encourages us to pass on this good news. One of the great things is that God is also constant – from generation to generation. And so we pass this on.

The music for this hymn is also wonderful. The hymn tune Woodlands was composed in 1916, and is one of my favourites just because of how uplifting it is. In fact I dare say that I can’t sing it without a smile!

This weekend was particularly special for me because one of my friends got baptised. It was at a Church I wouldn’t usually go to, but I figured I should probably go to support her! It was such a joyful occasion, with about 5 people altogether being baptised, and a celebration afterwards. It’s been wonderful to see my friend grow in faith – and I’ve learned plenty from her. Particularly in how she prays. She prays straight from the heart – she pours her heart out to God, not only praying for her and others’ needs, but also thanking God for his great goodness.

Throughout the weekend, and since, this song has been in my head, and I have dared to sing it out loud at the top of my voice a few times! It has reminded me of God’s goodness. And when people tell out the greatness of the Lord, to their friends, to their children, to their children’s children, great things can happen.

Hymns: Fairest Lord Jesus

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.” – Isaiah 40:8

I have moments sometimes, when I look at the stars, or at nature, or something beautiful, and wonder how it is that God is just so good.

This morning I was walking to a prayer meeting, and saw the stream near my home, with a lovely church in the background. It looked so serene and idyllic, and I was reminded of God’s beauty, glory and goodness. In fact, it made me so joyous I was singing all the way to the prayer meeting…

Anyway. Fairest Lord Jesus is simply beautiful. It speaks about beauty in the natural world, and in us. It finally talks about how unchanging and unfading Jesus is, which is a wonderful reminder in this ever-changing world.

“Fair are the meadows
Fairer still the woodlands
Robed in the verdure and bloom of spring!
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer,
He makes the saddest heart to sing!”

This is the second verse, reminding us that no matter how good and beautiful nature is, Jesus is even better. That’s super encouraging – nature is so beautiful and yet Jesus can offer more!

But perhaps my favourite verse is the final one, which ends like this:

“Yet is their beauty fading and fleeting,
My Jesus, thine will never fade.”

It’s an important reminder that our only constant hope and joy is to be found in Jesus – beautiful things will eventually fade away, die or otherwise lose their beauty, but Jesus is eternal.

The verse I chose at the top talks about God’s everlasting Word. The chapter compares people to grass, and their faithfulness to flowers: They die, they wither, but God is ever-present and endures forever. What a blessing it is to have such a God!

Hymn: Cantique de Jean Racine

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

OK, so this isn’t strictly a hymn. More a piece of choral music. But it ranks high amongst my favourites.

The Cantique de Jean Racine is a setting by Fauré of an earlier text by (you guessed it) Jean Racine. The music is wonderful – I love the constant triplets in the accompaniment, and the rich harmonies.

The words speak of God’s grace, presence, glory and peace. One of my favourite lines translates roughly as “That hell may flee at the sound of [His] voice!” – this really helps remind me of just how glorious God is. And yet, after this climax, it dies down gradually to the end of the third verse, where the text talks of God’s faithful people going in peace.

This is an important reminder to me at the moment. I’ve got a fair number of assessments to work on and a busy day with the Brass Band on Saturday. I find it all too easy to get stressed out and worked up about things like this – having a calming piece of music that speaks of God’s peace, grace and glory is a great reminder to stay grounded!

Hymns: Crown Him with Many Crowns

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”” – Revelation 5:13

I may be fangirling slightly here.

“Crown Him the Lord of years,
The potentate of time
Creator of the rolling spheres,
Ineffably sublime”

This is poetry. With an awesome tune, an even more awesome descant, it’s a joy to sing and a joy to worship God with.

“All hail, Redeemer, hail,
For Thou hast died for me
Thy praise shall never, never fail
Through all eternity”

It a hymn that reminds us of just how great and awesome God is. How great a privilege it is to worship Him. It reminds us that Jesus died for us, and just how important that is. “For Thou hast died for me” – it’s all about that one act of perfect obedience and we are redeemed.

Crown Him with Many Crowns has some of the most wonderful language I think it’s possible for a hymn to have. It’s majestic, and evokes such a feeling of awe – “Creator of the rolling spheres”. God created everything. From the smallest cell to the largest star, the latter being what’s mentioned here. And then it follows up this wonderful line with “Ineffably sublime”. Ineffably meaning inexpressible. Wow. God is so amazing we can’t even express how great He is. The Jubilate words don’t even come close to the majesty expressed here. (Sorry, Jubilate. I mean #sorrynotsorry)

And that’s all in one verse. This is one of my all-time favourites – it’s impossible for me to sing this without being amazed by God’s power, might and love, and how much of a privilege it is to worship Him.

The verse in Revelation is wonderful. It tells of how God will always be praised. Using the image of the Lamb it seems to refer to Jesus’ death. Both of which are also referred to in the hymn.

Added to this a wonderful tune (Diademata) and (at my home Church) a glorious descant with beautiful altered harmonies. It’s beautiful.

Hymns: Hark the Herald

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”” – Luke 2:13-14

Christmas is such a good time of year for music. For hymns. For descants. It’s hard to choose my favourite. There’s the beautiful “Once in Royal” descant. There’s the wonderful “O Come All Ye Faithful” descant. But I think my favourite is “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give them second birth.
Hark, the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!

The first half of the descant is fairly ordinary, to be honest. As descants often are, it is joyous. One of the reasons I love descants so much is that they are loud and joyful, a sort of musical expression of praise to God. Not that the normal tunes aren’t. (Just to clarify).

In the second half of the verse, there is a little bit of poetry, as the descant slips below the tune as we sing “Mild he lays his glory by”, before soaring up for the next line, reaching the joint highest note as we get to the word “raise”.

This is my favourite descant for a number of reasons, but it includes perhaps my favourite musical moment in all of the Christmas hymns we do. In the refrain, the is the most glorious suspension between the tune and the descant, prepared and resolved by the tune. Suspensions done well are glorious. Sung by a whole Church singing at the tops of their voices, praising God and celebrating the birth of Jesus, this has to be one of my favourite suspensions ever.

I often lose my voice after carol services. I’ve been to two in two days this year (my home Church’s service, and my old school’s). I certainly have more voice than when I did 3 at school, and the Church one, combined with cold season. Praising God in song, with a full Church, is one of the most uplifting things you can do. A proper warm-up helps though! 😉

Church music is special. Church Christmas music is especially glorious.

Merry Christmas!