Go Tell It On the Mountain is an African-American spiritual dating back to at least 1865. It has been performed by many choirs and gospel singers over the years, and is usually considered a Christmas song because it centers around the birth of Jesus, and the first people to hear that good news — the shepherds. It’s also been a favorite of my granddaughter, Katelyn, since she was a little girl.
For more about the shepherds in the Christmas story, go to these posts:
Why the Shepherds? Part 1
Why the Shepherds? Part 2
In church this past Sunday, the choir sang this hymn:
It made me wonder how many of us are really willing to go and do and be whatever Christ wants. I fear I’m too often more like the anonymous writer of the poem below. I’m all too inclined to offer God what feels comfortable and convenient. Which kind of Christian are you?
Think It Over
I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord;
Real service is what I desire;
I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord—
But don’t ask me to sing in the choir.I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord;
I like to see things come to pass;
But don’t ask me to teach girls and boys, dear Lord—
I’d rather just stay in my class.I’ll do what You want me to do, dear Lord;
I yearn for the Kingdom to thrive;
I’ll give You my nickels and dimes, dear Lord—
But please don’t ask me to tithe.I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord;
I’ll say what You want me to say;
I’m busy just now with myself, dear Lord—
I’ll help You some other day.
The Bible tells us that God is light.
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 3:5
It also speaks of the light of His countenance, or face.
““Many, LORD, are asking, ‘Who will bring us prosperity?’ Let the light of your face shine on us.” Psalm 4:6
When we want to experience God’s light, we only need to turn to Him. I’m reminded of a hymn written by Helen Howarth Lemmel in 1922. It was inspired by a pamphlet entitled Focused, written by the missionary Isabella Lilias Trotter and composed for use at Billy Sunday’s evangelistic meetings. Today it is a standard found in many hymnals.
Have you ever been to a performance of Handel’s Messiah? The whole oratorio, not just the Hallelujah Chorus? It was composed in 1741 and became one of the most well-known and frequently performed choral pieces in Western music. It is an extended reflection on Jesus as the Messiah, using scriptural texts. My family and I had a tradition of going to a production every year at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. The Hood College Choir collaborated with the Naval Academy Glee Club, it was free and very well done, always a wonderful musical experience. I’m not sure if it is still being offered. Anyway, I was thinking about that recently. One of the solos is based on the verses from Isaiah 9, that I mentioned in a previous post.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:3″
Listen and reflect on the great light Who has come into the world.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving we sang the hymn, Let All Things Now Living. living.” Katherine Kennicott Davis (1892-1980) published this text as an anthem in 1939 under the pseudonym of John Cowley. The first stanza had been written earlier, perhaps in the 1920s, to fit the Welsh tune, The Ash Grove.
The text can be read in different ways. The final line of the first stanza – “as forward we travel from light into light” – might reflect confidence in the ultimate progression of human endeavors for the better under God’s providence, an extension of eighteenth-century Enlightenment thought, and nineteenth-century philosophers John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) and Herbert Spencer (1820-1903). This certainly would have been consonant with early twentieth century New England liberal philosophical thought. Mission hymns of the era employ a similar idea reflected as a Christian extension of Manifest Destiny. Drawing upon the Exodus narrative, the first stanza alludes to the “pillar of fire shining forth in the night” (Exodus 13:21-22). Appearing between world wars, such optimism might have seemed premature.
Another way to view this text would be from an eschatological perspective as seen in the phrase, “who guides us and leads to the end of our days.” The direction of the Christian life is ultimately consummated in heaven. The beauty of hymn texts is that they may be read in several ways.
However you chose to view the theme of the hymn, it is uplifting and filled with images of light.
“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5
The hymn, I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light was written by Kathleen Thomerson in 1966, after she visited Church of the Redeemer in Houston, Texas. The simple folk-like melody is of her own composition. It speaks of God’s sanctifying grace in our life as we walk with Him. Listen and remember your commitment to follow the example of Jesus.
My husband and I just finished watching the documentary, Country Music, which I mentioned before. I thought I’d post this song from the last segment, one of my favorites, which we played at my father’s funeral.
Vince Gill began writing this song after a friend (Keith Whitley, another country singer) died of alcohol poisoning, but didn’t finish it for several years. When his older brother died he completed this song, and I’m sure it speaks to many, as it does to me.
For More Posts on Funeral Songs follow these links:
Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
I Want to Be in that Number