Hymns: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22-23

As I so often seem to do, I’m coming back to the theme of God’s enduring faithfulness.

I know some people who don’t particularly like this hymn. Those who find it too slow or too long, or those for whom it was ruined in school (there are two that I absolutely hate for that exact reason, so I can’t exactly complain…)

But I have my reasons.

Firstly, the words. It’s full-on praise. Lamentations is a pretty dark book (for a summary, The Bible Project is amazing) and yet from there – from that expression of grief – comes the wonderful bit of hope. And the hymn takes that hope and is almost defiant in reminding us of it!

The music is interesting, with a whole load of chromatic movement, and works pretty well peacefully or in exuberant joy. I think I prefer the exuberant joy – it fits better with the themes of praise and hope, even in the little things.

Hymnary.org says that the hymn “is inspired by the simple realisation that God is at work in our lives on a daily basis”. I’ve certainly come to that realisation more than a few times myself, and Great is Thy Faithfulness is a great reminder of that.

Hymns: I Will Sing The Wondrous Story

There is a worrying amount to do before September. It’s very tempting to just stick my head in the sand but I’ve done that enough already. When I finally dare to take my head out of the sand I always worry that I’ll be surrounded by paperwork. Fortunately, it’s mostly under control. But try telling that to the part of my brain that likes to panic…

So how good it is to have a hymn that reminds me of the wondrous story – the story of Christ, who died for me.

In the version I’m currently looking at (different versions seem to split the verses up differently), verse 2 is probably my favourite:

“I was lost, but Jesus found me,
found the sheep that went astray,
raised me up and gently led me
back into the narrow way.
Days of darkness still may meet me,
sorrow’s path I oft may tread;
but His presence still is with me,
by His guiding hand I’m led”

It’s a reminder that God’s always been there. A reminder that Jesus reaches out to help – He is not distant. And a reminder that He will always lead me, no matter what the circumstance.

The beginning of Isaiah 43 sums this up pretty well. It starts off, in verse 1, saying Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” This links very well with the line “I was lost, but Jesus found me”. And then Isaiah 43:2-3 sums up the rest of the verse pretty well.

But of course I enjoy the whole hymn. The wonder expressed in the repeated lines of “Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story/Of the Christ who died for me” helps to remind me of my salvation. And my privilege to share that with others.

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.

When I Get Too Pedantic…

Asda (a cheap UK supermarket) have been advertising their Easter products. And whilst doing so, they used an interesting tagline. “Everything you can imagine this Easter”.

This is where the pedantry really sets in. What I can imagine this Easter is a church full of people praising God, celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection, singing great hymns like “Thine Be The Glory” at the tops of their voices (with a modulation for the final verse, of course!). And then I broaden this imagination to hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of churches, all celebrating such a special event!

I probably couldn’t buy that at Asda. I’ll admit, some chocolate wouldn’t go amiss. Which is probably more what Asda had in mind…

10 days to go until Easter!

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: 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!