Music Teaches, last installment

Music has a great impact on the lives of people all over the world. I am unaware of any culture, ancient or modern, that knew nothing of music. But we ought not forget as we ponder the music in our worship lives, that the notes are really the vehicle which carry the words of the hymn, as it were. It is the lyrics the edify, animate, encourage, and prepare us for eternity. “A Mighty Fortress” is musically powerful, but it is the lyrics that inspire us. The tune of “Rock of Ages” is, at least in my opinion, far less worthy that the words which teach us of our inability to contribute anything to our salvation and yet share the gospel promise that Christ has done it all for us.

When people claim that hymns are obsolete or too old fashioned for today’s world, I feel a sense of sadness because they are missing the teaching that comes with hose hymns. There are reasons why words written hundreds of years ago still move and teach us. Using them in the family will help us retain what God has inspired for His Church.

For mor hymns see:

An Advent Hymn

Let Us Ever Walk With Jesus

Children of the Heavenly Father

Music Teaches, continued

Martin Luther was not only a lover of music, but a gifted writer of hymns and musical accompaniment. The German Mass he prepared for the new evangelical churches included hymnody by the congregation –something rarely used in Medieval Catholic churches. Luther believed that the recovery of hymnody was a teaching tool in which the power of the music and the words together would reinforce the teaching from the pulpit. Luther also urged parents to use hymns during their home devotions, and encouraged the use of hymns in schools, as well.

When our children were young, my wife, Joan, and I would include Christian songs in our devotions or time around the table. “Jesus Loves the Little Children” “Rise and Shine,” and others were among those we sang together, as well as Christmas carols during Advent. Sometimes we allowed the girls to choose the hymn for the day.

Once, as my wife was driving the girls somewhere, they were singing “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb.” Kate, our youngest said, “Some kids don’t know they are Jesus’ little lamb.” She felt sorry for those other children because she knew something they didn’t–something really important that everyone should know. That comment led my wife to begin a five-year practice of writing the Vacation Bible School programs for our congregation. That was a successful ministry that began with singing hymns as a family.

More to come ….

For more about Martin Luther and music see:

Martin Luther on Music #2

Why We Should Give Thanks for Music (according to Martin Luther)

Martin Luther on Music

O Holy Night

Here are some facts you probably don’t know about this well-known and loved Christmas song.

*It was written in 1847 by the commissionaire of wines of a small French town. He was known for his poetry but was not devout and later walked away from the church entirely.

*The music was composed by a Jewish musician, a friend of the poet.

*It became one of the most popular Christmas songs in France but was eventually denounced by the church when the backgrounds of the poet and the composer were discovered.

*It was introduced in America by a Unitarian minister who was an abolitionist. He was attracted to the song because of some lines in the third verse: “Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease.”

*In 1906 it became the first live song ever sent via radio waves.

*It’s also my husband’s favorite Christmas song, so I’m putting it up for him (and you) to enjoy on Christmas Eve.

*For more Christmas Carols see:

12 Days of Christmas Carols- Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Famous Christmas Carols – Story Behind the Carol – “O Come All Ye Faithful”

Joy to the World

An Advent Hymn

If you’re a Lutheran, you’re probably aware that “Hello – It Is Not Christmas Yet”. That means in the Lutheran churches I’ve been attending this month we are not singing Christmas carols — we’re singing advent hymns. The particular one I’m going to highlight today was written by a German Lutheran pastor, Georg Weissel (1590 – 1635). Psalm 24 is the inspiration for this hymn, particularly verses 7-10:

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.”

In this psalm David is celebrating the moving of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. To the people of that time, it meant that God would be among them. In the same way, this hopeful hymn asks us to make our heart a temple for the presence of God.

For more advent hymns see these posts:

Hopeful Hymn #3

O Come

Resisting Temptation in Our Hour of Trial

In the Hour of Trial was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854), who was born in Scotland of Irish parents.  His father, John Montgomery, was a Moravian pastor. It was inspired by the story of Peter’s threefold denial of Christ, and is a plea for help in times of trial and temptation. The Bible acknowledges that we will be tempted, but help is available.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

As you listen, remember that you can always turn to Jesus for help in resisting sin.

A Thousand Tongues

O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing was used in a recent worship service I attended. It was one of the more than six thousand hymns written by Charles Wesley and was originally titled “For the Anniversary of One’s Conversion.” Part of any conversion experience is the realization that we are sinners, and we can’t stop sinning. The only remedy is a Savior, and Wesley recognizes and proclaims that truth in this well known hymn.

In May 1738, Charles Wesley was suffering from pleurisy, and during this time he was plagued with doubts about his faith. On May 21st, he attend a Bible study where he listened to a number of testimonies. He was deeply moved by this experience and considered it to be the moment that he turned to Christ.

Eleven years later, he wrote a 18 stanza poem about his conversion. It is thought to be inspired by Peter Bohler, an influential Moravian leader, who said “Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Christ Jesus with all of them.”

For more hymns by Charles Wesley see these posts:

Jesus, Lover of My Soul


Resisting Temptation

In Sunday School this past week, we sang the hymn, Yield Not to Temptation. Horatio R. Palmer (1834-1907), an American musician, wrote it shortly after the Civil War. One day while working on a music theory exercise, the idea for this hymn suddenly came to him in a burst of inspiration. He quickly wrote it down, and very few edits were needed.

Or course, this hymn reminded me of the monthly theme. Sometimes we sin unwittingly, but often we are tempted (sometimes over and over) until we finally give in. We fail to turn to our real source of strength –God– for help in resisting sinful desires. This hymn is a bracing reminder that we are not alone in our struggle with Satan.

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

For more about temptation see these posts:

Pure In Heart by J. Garrett Kell–Book Review

Grade Yourself

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I implore you– Part 2

Wash Away Your Sins

The church I attended recently used the hymn, Today Your Mercy Calls Us” as their processional at the beginning of the service. It goes along beautifully with the theme this month. How wonderful it is to know that our sins have already been washed away. Listen and give thanks.

For more hymns see these posts:

Let Us Ever Walk With Jesus

Children of the Heavenly Father

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

A Spanish Birthday Song?

As I’m writing this post, my husband and a member of our congregation are attending a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend. In prayer for that retreat, I read through the Pilgrim’s Guide, a booklet of prayers, songs, and psalms that is given out to all first time attendees. One of the songs is Las Mananitas, a traditional Spanish song that’s used in Mexico as a sort of “Happy Birthday.” It’s also sung on other occasions such as Mother’s Day and the Feast Day of the Lady of Guadalupe. On Via de Cristo weekend, team members sing it on Sunday morning to awaken the first-timers. What a blessed way to start the day!

The composer is not known, and since it has a long history, there are many different lyrics and variations. Here’s one version:

For other songs used on Via de Cristo weekends see:

Just A Closer Walk With Thee

Wind, Wind Blow on Me

Lord I Lift Your Name on High

Jesu, Jesu

This hymn was used in a church I visited recently. I love it, and it has an interesting history. Following African independence movements during the 1960s and 1970s, some Western missionaries encouraged the composition of Christian songs in African idioms. Thomas S. Colvin (1925-2000) was one of these missionaries. “Jesu, Jesu” is Colvin’s most popular hymn. The melody is adapted from a Ghanaian folk song he heard during his years of service in that country.

The reference to foot washing in stanza 1 (John 13:1-17), makes it an appropriate hymn for Maundy Thursday. However, the general theme of service is always suitable. It stresses the equality of everyone in Christ (John 13:16). All people — “rich and poor” and “black and white” — are our neighbors. I hope you enjoy it this morning.