Welcome!  Hymns have been and continue to be a real source of inspiration to me.  My desire in this blog is to share special hymns with my readers hoping that the words will minister to them, especially in times of great personal need.  If one of these hymns ministers to you, please take time to leave a comment so that I know that my blog is helping others as much as it helps me. Sometimes I will also provide a link where you can go to hear the hymn played.  So, please join me here each week and sing along as we praise God together.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

YESTERDAY, TODAY, FOREVER



        Lately a phrase from the hymn "Abide With Me" keeps flooding through my mind. "Change and decay in all around I see."  And how true that phrase is in today's world.  It often appears that everything around us is changing and often these changes are not for the good.  We long for a sure foundation and for stability and truths that we can depend upon.   And, thankfully, we find that only in Jesus Christ and His Word.  We marvel at the truth that centuries ago He came to this earth to pay the price for our salvation. That truth will never change. And while here on earth He performed many miracles, He healed the sick, He made the blind to see again, He made the lame to walk again, He comforted the poor and weak, He controlled the elements and He conquered the grave.  And that power has not changed. The amazing thing is that while He no longer walks on this earth, this same Jesus still cares for us and works in the lives of believers today.  "All may change, but Jesus never!"  And what a comfort that should be for us.  Based on Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever", Albert Simpson (1843-1919) expressed this truth in this week's hymn choice.  Simpson was  a pastor and served mainly in U.S. churches, eventually founding the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. In the early 1880's his health gave way and doctors told him that he had only a few months to live. However, Simpson experienced a dramatic healing, enabling him to continue in active ministry for another thirty-five years. He wrote about 170 hymns, most of them published in Alliance hymnbooks.  This particular hymn of his reminds us that the risen Savior is alive and that He hasn't changed. Nor will He ever.  His promises are still true.  He still walks beside His children. He still cares about all of our needs. He still is all powerful today as He was yesterday. May we never forget that.  All may change, but Jesus never!  Glory to His name. 


1.     O how sweet the glorious message simple faith may claim
Yesterday, today, forever Jesus is the same.
Still He loves to save the sinful, heal the sick and lame
Cheer the mourner, still the tempest, glory to His Name.
Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same.
All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His Name!
Glory to His Name! Glory to His Name!
All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His Name!

2.     He, who was the Friend of sinners, seeks the lost one now
Sinner come, and at His footstool penitently bow
He Who said "I'll not condemn thee, go and sin no more,"
Speaks to thee that word of pardon as in days of yore.
Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same.
All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His Name!
Glory to His Name! Glory to His Name!
All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His Name!

3.     Oft on earth He healed the sufferer by His mighty hand
Still our sicknesses and sorrows go at His command
He who gave His healing virtue to a woman's touch
To the faith that claims His fullness still will give as much.
Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same.
All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His Name!
Glory to His Name! Glory to His Name!
All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His Name!

4.     As of old He walked to Emmaus, with them to abide
So through all life's way He walketh ever near our side
Soon again we shall behold Him, Hasten Lord the day
But twill still be this same Jesus as He went away.
Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same.
All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His Name!
Glory to His Name! Glory to His Name!
All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His Name!

The following two verses are believed to also have been written by Simpson even though they do not usually appear in hymn books.

*  He who pardoned erring Peter never needst thou fear,
He who came to faithless Thomas all thy doubt will clear;
He who let the loved disciple on His bosom rest
Bids thee still, with love as tender, lean upon His breast.

* He who 'mid the raging billows walked upon the sea
Still can hush our wildest tempest, as on Galilee;
He who wept and prayed in anguish in Gethsemane
Drinks with us each cup of trembling, in our agony.

You can listen to it here.  LISTEN

Sunday, February 11, 2018

WONDERFUL STORY OF LOVE


          This week many people will celebrate Valentine's Day.  They will express their love to another by buying flowers, cards, candy, jewelry or going to a special restaurant or taking a romantic trip.  If there is someone that you really care for or love, this is a good tradition to observe. But hopefully this isn't the only day of the year when you express your love to that special person. And if you do have one that you love, you are very fortunate and should never take that person for granted. But there is One who loves us far beyond any earthly love.  We are reminded in Romans 5:8 that "God showed His love to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!"  That is an amazing, wonderful story of real love. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16.  John Merritte Driver (1858-1918) was born in Illinois but I couldn't find much information about his background or his life.  But after he attended Illinois Agricultural College and Boston University, he became a Methodist Episcopal preacher and served at the People's Church in Chicago, IL, from 1902 to 1907. He is credited with composing some 30 hymns.  But he may be best known for writing the words of this week's hymn about God's love. In this hymn Driver summarized some pivotal points relating to the life and ministry of Christ which illustrate some aspects of God''s wonderful love. First, he dealt with the significance of the birth of Christ, when the shepherds heard the good news, "There is born to you … a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke. 2:11).  Then comes His sacrifice on the cross, and the call to salvation through faith in Him (John. 3:16).   Finally, there is His promised return to take us to our home, to the "many mansions" in heaven that He is preparing for us (John. 14:2-3).  And that is a wonderful story of love.  Unfortunately, sometimes we tend to forget about this love.  We shouldn't need a special event like Christmas or Easter or Valentine's Day to be reminded of His love, it should permeate our minds and actions each day.  May we daily thank Him for this wonderful love which He does demonstrate for us each day.


1      Wonderful story of love;
Tell it to me again;
Wonderful story of love;
Wake the immortal strain!
Angels with rapture announce it,
Shepherds with wonder receive it;
Sinner, oh, won't you believe it?
Wonderful story of love. 
Refrain:
Wonderful! Wonderful!
Wonderful, wonderful story of love. 

2     Wonderful story of love;
Though you are far away;
Wonderful story of love;
Still He doth call today;
Calling from Calvary's mountain,
Down from the crystal-bright fountain,
E'en from the dawn of creation,
Wonderful story of love. 
Refrain:
Wonderful! Wonderful!
Wonderful, wonderful story of love.

3      Wonderful story of love;
Jesus provides a rest;
Wonderful story of love;
For all the pure and blest,
Rest in those mansions above us,
With those who've gone on before us,
Singing the rapturous chorus,
Wonderful story of love. Refrain:
Wonderful! Wonderful!
Wonderful, wonderful story of love.

Listen to it here.  LISTEN1
I also found a beautiful instrumental version which I chose to share.  LISTEN2

Sunday, February 4, 2018

LOVE LIFTED ME (TH#15)

TIMELESS HYMN #15 - Another revised and repeated blog of one of the great hymns of the faith - LOVE LIFTED ME - originally shared on April 26, 2009



          The month of February is a month when we think of Valentine's Day and love.  So I've chosen to repeat a hymn which talks about real love - the love of God our Father.  Many of the old hymns used pictures of storms and seas to convey messages of salvation, safety, and protection provided by the Lord.  Sometimes the pictures are of lighthouses, lifelines, shelters, rocks, or sinking experiences.   One of my favorite is this week's hymn which shares of God's love to us when we were far from the peaceful shore and sinking in sin.  It was then that His love lifted us.  We were so unworthy and not deserving of being rescued, but in His love He did rescue us and now we are safe in Him.  That is real love.  "But God showed His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8.  But while the hymn talks about being saved while sinking in sin, it is also a reminder that when we face the storms of life and feel like we are sinking, in His love He rescues us again.  And we are safe. The words to this hymn were penned in 1912 by James Rowe.  During his lifetime, Rowe claimed to have written more than 19,000 song texts. Rowe and his friend Howard Smith created "Love Lifted Me" in Saugatuck, Connecticut, and sold the copyright to Charles Tillman, who transferred it to Robert Coleman in 1915 for one hundred dollars.  According to Rowe's daughter: " I can see them now, my father striding up and down humming a bar or two, and Smith playing it and jotting it down. The two huddled together, working line by line, bar by bar, composing this hymn in tandem."  The words were jotted down by James Rowe, and the music was hammered out at the piano by Smith whose hands were so twisted from arthritis that his friends wondered how he could play the piano at all. When they finished, the world had "Love Lifted Me."  Rowe reminds us of the "redemption from sin by our Saviour" in the first verse  The second verse shows "the change in our walk as we owe Him our song, our service, our whole heart."  The last verse is a "witness to the lost."   And the hymn also reminds us that we need to live in His presence and continually sing His praises. Are you doing that today?  Amazingly, He has lifted us!


(1)   I was sinking deep in sin,
Far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within,
Sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea,
Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me,
Now safe am I.
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help 
Love lifted me!

(2)   All my heart to Him I give,
ever to Him I'll cling
In His blessed presence live,
ever His praises sing,
Love so mighty and so true,
merits my soul's best songs,
Faithful, loving service too,
to Him belongs.
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help 
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help 
Love lifted me!

(3)   Souls in danger look above,
Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love,
out of the angry waves.
He's the Master of the sea,
billows His will obey,
He your Savior wants to be,
be saved today.
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help 
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help 
Love lifted me!

Listen to it here.   LISTEN

Sunday, January 28, 2018

WHERE COULD I GO?


          There is an appointment that we all have and can't avoid.  That is our final earthly appointment with death.  We don't know how it will happen or when it will happen.  For some it happens quickly for others it is a long painful event.  And while we can't do anything to avoid it, the key is being ready for the next step - eternity, with or without the Savior.  I have watched many of my friends and family meet this appointment over the years, some seemingly too early in life.  But a loving God has a plan and purpose for each.  Recently another friend of mine, a good Bible teacher, received a terminal diagnosis.  Here are some things that he shared with me.  "Pray that in this journey ... I will bring the Lord honor and glory, that in some way I would radiate Jesus to everyone I come in contact with in the medical world.  There is no medical cure at this time only treatment to stabilize and maintain.  Death is a natural part of life and I have faith that the Lord is in this some how.  It certainly is not what I had planned.  But in His wisdom He has made this a part of our lives.  It is now time for my last teaching assignment and that is to teach younger saints how to die.  Pray that I teach it well."  We can't predict how we will each react when we receive this news, but one thing is certain.  Where we can really go at that time is to the Lord. He alone will provide the strength and peace we need to meet this appointment. This week's song asks the question where can we go?  It was written in 1940 by James (J. B.) Coats (1901-1961), a songwriter from Mississippi. The inspiration for the song came some years earlier when Coats was at the bedside of one of his dying neighbors, an African-American gentleman named Joe Keyes.  Being a preacher, Coats had asked Keyes if he knew where he would spend eternity when he died. Keyes simply replied, "Where could I go but to the Lord?" Some years later, as he was away from home teaching a singing school, Coats finally included these words in his gospel song.  As Coats wrote, "Life here is grand with friends I love so dear. Comfort I get from God's own word.  Yet when I face this chilling hand of death, where could I go but to the Lord?"  What a joy to know that when we come to that final appointment, the Lord will be there to safely carry us through the fear and pain, safely to the better land He is preparing for us.  Do you have this assurance?


1.     Living below, in this old sinful world
Hardly a comfort can afford
Striving alone, to face temptation's sword
Where could I go but to the Lord?
Where could I go, oh where could I go?
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend, to help me in the end
Where could I go, but to the Lord?

2.     Neighbors are kind, I love them everyone
We get along in sweet accord
But when my soul, needs manna from above
Where could I go but to the Lord?
Where could I go, oh where could I go?
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend, to help me in the end
Where could I go, but to the Lord? 

3.     Life here is grand, with friends I love so dear
Comfort I get from God's own word
Yet when I face this chilling hand of death
Where could I go but to the Lord?
Where could I go, oh where could I go?
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend, to help me in the end
Where could I go, but to the Lord?

Listen to it here.   LISTEN

Sunday, January 21, 2018

IF I GAINED THE WORLD


          So often throughout history men have dreamed of conquering new lands and becoming powerful and rich world leaders.  And while they may have thought that they had  successes along the way, in the end they lost all and eventually, sadly, they lost their soul and moved into a hopeless eternity.  It is human nature to dream of gaining great wealth and power. Some times attempts to gain riches are made through illegal means.  Sometimes people try through scams, or they gamble.  Often they play the lottery.  But even those who win huge jackpots often find nothing but problems handling their new riches.  And while they might enjoy it for a season, they can't take it with them when they eventually leave this earth.  And, sadly, they often miss the very most important thing in life.  Matthew 16:26 explains it all with the question, "What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"  The question is one of the most serious questions we will ever face and surely most of us will answer it, more than once.  This life offers so many material things - riches, popularity, power, pride - all things that seem so important to we earthly beings.  Anna Olander (1861-1939), the daughter of a clergyman, was a Swedish hymn writer. Early in life she started writing poems and stories. She edited nearly 50 books, translated hymns into Swedish from English and German, and wrote some original songs of her own. But the only song of hers that is still in use in English today is "If I Gained the World", written by her in 1904. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  (Matt 6:19-21). Where is our treasure? What are the desires of our heart? Do we desire to gain the whole world, or even a small part of it - a world that will leave one empty?  As this  hymn asks, "Are all earthly pleasures worth comparing for a moment with a Christ-filled life?"  We need to live with eternity's values in view.  Are our values and priorities right?  What is more important to us - our work and vacations or our worship, our investments or our tithing, our hobbies or our ministry, our sports and television or our times with the Lord?  Sometimes a look at our datebooks and our checkbooks can give us those answers. As Olander wrote, "If I have but Jesus, only Jesus, nothing else in all the world beside - O then everything is mine in Jesus; for my needs and more He will provide."  The scriptures challenge us to "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."  Matthew 6:33.    Think about it!



1.   f I gained the world, but lost the Savior,
Were my life worth living for a day?
Could my yearning heart find rest and comfort
In the things that soon must pass away?
If I gained the world, but lost the Savior,
Would my gain be worth the lifelong strife?
Are all earthly pleasures worth comparing
For a moment with a Christ-filled life?

2.   Had I wealth and love in fullest measure,
And a name revered both far and near,
Yet no hope beyond, no harbor waiting,
Where my storm-tossed vessel I could steer;
If I gained the world, but lost the Savior,
Who endured the cross and died for me,
Could then all the world afford a refuge,
Whither, in my anguish, I might flee?

3     O what emptiness! - without the Savior
'Mid the sins and sorrows here below!
And eternity, how dark without Him!
Only night and tears and endless woe!
What, though I might live without the Savior,
When I come to die, how would it be?
O to face the valley's gloom without Him!
And without Him all eternity!

4    O the joy of having all in Jesus!
What a balm the broken heart to heal!
Ne'er a sin so great, but He'll forgive it,
Nor a sorrow that He does not feel!
If I have but Jesus, only Jesus,
Nothing else in all the world beside - 
O then everything is mine in Jesus;
For my needs and more He will provide

You can listen to it here.    
               choice 1   LISTEN1
               choice 2   LISTEN2

Sunday, January 14, 2018

REDEMPTION DRAWETH NIGH


          For centuries believers have looked for the return of the Lord and yet one day, maybe even soon, it will happen.  Jesus himself promised that He would come again to take us home with Him.  Over the years many have tried to set dates for this coming event, but they have all failed.  And that shouldn't surprise anybody for we are told that we won't know when His return will happen.  Mark 13:32 says, "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."  But yes, it could even be today - at morning, at noon or at night, at a time when we least expect it. Signs of the time are everywhere.  Our redemption does draw nigh.  Gordon Jensen knew the scripture and the promise of Jesus.   He knew the scripture, Luke 21:28, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."  And that led him to write this week's song choice.  Gordon himself shared the story of the writing of "Redemption Draweth Nigh". He told of how he took the song to one of the biggest groups of that time period and the group didn't like the song and told him it wasn't the kind of song that people wanted to hear. Not giving up, he continued to pitch the song until it was finally recorded.  Duane Allen of the Oak Ridge Boys told Gordon that "Redemption Draweth Nigh" was the type of song that would be sung for years.  Well, that statement came true as most of the groups of the early 1970's recorded this gem.  Even now, groups still record and stage what is now Gordon Jensen's classic.  It is good Gordon didn't listen to the first group who shot the song down but continued to believe in what he wrote because look at all the countless listeners who have since heard this song in the decades that followed.  What a wonderful day it will be when Jesus comes again.  The return of Christ is "the blessed hope" of every believer (Titus 2:13). We eagerly "wait for His Son from heaven" (I Thessalonians 1:10). Perhaps He'll come today. What a tremendous way that would be to start a new year.  I trust that you count yourself among those who "love His appearing" (II Timothy 4:8).   For the Christian, this is an exciting and energizing prospect, long anticipated - Jesus is coming again. Are you ready should it be today?  "Keep your eyes upon the eastern sky. Lift up your heads, redemption draweth nigh!"

1.     Years of time have come and gone
Since I first heard it told,
How Jesus would come again someday.
If back then it seemed so real,
Then I just can't help but feel
How much closer his coming is today.
Chorus:
Signs of the times are everywhere.
There's a brand new feeling in the air.
Keep your eyes upon the eastern sky,
Life up your heads, redemption draweth nigh!

2.   Wars and strife on every hand
And violence fills our land,
Still some people doubt he'll come again.
But the Word of God is true,
He'll redeem his chosen few.
Don't lose hope, soon Christ Jesus will descend.
Chorus:
Signs of the times are everywhere.
There's a brand new feeling in the air.
Keep your eyes upon the eastern sky,
Life up your heads, redemption draweth nigh!

Listen to it here.   LISTEN

Sunday, January 7, 2018

NO ONE UNDERSTANDS LIKE JESUS (TH #14)


TIMELESS HYMN #14 - Another revised and repeated blog of one of the great hymns of the faith - NO ONE UNDERSTANDS LIKE JESUS - originally shared on March 15, 2009.

          All of us go through periods when we feel all alone and think nobody seems to care.  The problems seem so heavy and we wish that we just had somebody who could help us through the fog that we face.  The difficult times in which we live have brought new, heavy tensions -   unemployment, bills, mortgages, illnesses, family struggles, fears, terrorism, loss of freedoms, uncertainty - heavy burdens to bear.  And as we begin a new year we start afresh hoping that things will change for the better.  But we live in a sinful world where problems are not going to vanish even if we make good "resolutions".  A hymn by John Peterson (1921– 2006) has often been a comfort to me when I have faced these seemingly "impossible" pressures.  Incidentally, back when I used to sing solos, this was the first hymn that I sang with a taped background - in fact it was the first time any soloist used a background tape in our church.  Mr. Peterson wrote this hymn in the early years of his ministry.  Here is his account of how it was written. "At one time I had a fairly responsible position with a well-known gospel ministry. One day a supervisory position opened up in my department. I was led to believe that I was to be promoted to this position. I was thrilled and challenged by the prospect of a new job. But I was by-passed, and a man from the outside was brought in to fill the position.  There followed days of agonizing heart searching. It was all I could do to keep from becoming bitter. One night I had occasion to spend an evening with the man who was brought in for "my" position. For some reason or other, though otherwise a very pleasant fellow, that night he became quite caustic in some of his remarks to me; and I was deeply hurt.   Later that evening, after returning home, I was sitting in our living room thinking about the events of the past days and about the bitter experiences of that evening. I began to feel very alone and forsaken. Suddenly, I sensed the presence of the Lord in an unusual way and my mind was diverted from my difficulties to His faithfulness and sufficiency. Soon the thought occurred to me that He fully understood and sympathized with my situation  In fact, no one could ever completely understand or care as did He. Before long, the idea for the song came and I began to write."  Since then this hymn and its truth have been a special comfort to me as well as to untold scores of believers. Yes, Jesus is a friend who will never leave us or forsake us.  He is our only true friend.  May the words of this song encourage you during the new year.  Cast your every care on Him.



1.     No one understands like Jesus.
He's a friend beyond compare;
Meet Him at the throne of mercy;
He is waiting for you there.
No one understands like Jesus
When the days are dark and grim;
No one is so near, so dear as Jesus--
Cast your ev'ry care on Him!

2.     No one understands like Jesus;
Ev'ry woe He sees and feels;
Tenderly He whispers comfort,
And the broken heart He heals.
No one understands like Jesus
When the days are dark and grim;
No one is so near, so dear as Jesus--
Cast your ev'ry care on Him!

3.     No one understands like Jesus
When the foes of life assail;
You should never be discouraged;
Jesus cares and will not fail!
No one understands like Jesus
When the days are dark and grim;
No one is so near, so dear as Jesus--
Cast your ev'ry care on Him!

4.     No one understands like Jesus
When you falter on the way;
Tho' you fail Him, sadly fail Him,
He will pardon you today.
No one understands like Jesus
When the days are dark and grim;
No one is so near, so dear as Jesus--
Cast your ev'ry care on Him!

Listen to this beautiful hymn sung here.    

A solo   LISTEN1
A choir   LISTEN2

Sunday, December 31, 2017

I'VE NEVER BEEN OUT OF HIS CARE


          It is so hard to believe that another year is passing.  I think that the older one gets the faster time seems to fly.  The year 2017 might be one of those years you'd like to forget.  It has been filled with political intrigue, racial problems, terrorism, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and forrest fires, in addition to a multitude of personal challenges that we each have faced.  Will 2018 be any different?  Probably not, unless the Lord comes.  His return would make it the most memorable year in history and I pray daily for that to happen.  But no matter what does come our way, we do have the firm assurance that God will not forsake His children.  His eyes are upon us.  He sees all that we do. His arms are around us and they keep us safe and secure.  He knows where we are every hour of every day.  He even knows each of our thoughts.  And our loving Father provides joy with peace and life for His children.  But even though we are human and at times stray from His will, we are never out of His care.  These comforting truths are shared in this week's song choice.  And I am sharing them with you this week to encourage each of us as we start another year.  I know I need this encouragement and I am guessing that many of you do as well.  When we keep our eyes and thoughts on the problems of this world we can quickly become very discouraged and even depressed.  But we are just pilgrims here on this earth, just passing through.  Our real eternal home is just ahead and Jesus will lead us there.  If you have never accepted His free gift of salvation, why not start the new year with new life by accepting His free gift of forgiveness.  Then you, too, will have this blessed hope for the future. Now  I have had a very difficult time gathering any information about the writing of this song.  I have found numerous websites and sheet music which give credit for the writing to Dallas Holm, Phil Johnson, Mark Lowry and Amber Balltzglier or even a Michael Booth.  I know several of these have recorded it, but I don't know who is the actual author.  If you can clarify that for us, please leave a comment.  But no matter who penned the words, this would be a great song for each of us to carry with us into 2018.  Meditate upon the words and claim their truth during the coming year.


1.     The eyes of God are upon me,
He sees everything I do.
The arms of God are around me,
They keep me safe and secure.

And He knows where I am
Every hour of every day
He knows each thought I think
He knows each word that I might say.
And although there were times
I've stepped out of His will
I've never been out of His care.

2.     This changing world alarms me,
With war, with sin, with strife.
But my loving Father charms me,
With joy, with peace, and with life.

And He knows where I am
Every hour of every day
He knows each though I think
He knows each word that I might say.
And although there were times
I've stepped out of His will
I've never been out of His care.
I've never been out of His care.

Listen to it here.    LISTEN

Sunday, December 24, 2017

LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM (TH#13)


TIMELESS HYMNS #13 - A special feature in which every few weeks I choose a hymn that I have written about before, revise and update it, and share it once again because I think it has a powerful message for us.  This one was shared previously on December 21, 2008.



         Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of our annual trips to Bethlehem, PA, on Christmas Eve. I was in elementary school when my grandfather was pastor of a large church there.  Christmas was always celebrated with all of my grandparent's family gathered in their parsonage.  We would travel there on Christmas Eve and, as excited kids, we would always look to see who could first spot the lighted PP&L building in Allentown.  That tall building could be seen for miles and was a sign that we were almost there.  When we finally would arrive we would always find Grandma Wolf preparing hot chocolate and barbecue for the young people of the church who were out caroling.  They would gather afterwards in the parsonage basement to play ping pong and enjoy Grandma's food.  And so I have very special memories of Bethlehem at Christmas.  But the events at Bethlehem in the Holy Lands many centuries before are more memorable to everyone.  After a trip to that Bethlehem in 1868, Rector Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) was inspired by the view of the town from the hills of Palestine and he penned the words of that famous carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem".  According to the story, Brooks traveled on horseback between Jerusalem and Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.  "Before dark we rode out of town to the field where they say the shepherds saw the star. It is a fenced piece of ground with a cave in it, in which, strangely enough, they put the shepherds ... Somewhere in those fields we rode through, the shepherds must have been. As we passed, the shepherds were still 'keeping watch over their flocks,' or leading them home to fold."  Brooks participated in the Christmas Eve service, writes hymnologist Albert Bailey, "conducted in ... Constantine's ancient basilica (326 A.D.), built over the traditional site of the Nativity, a cave. The service lasted from 10 pm to 3 am." This sequence of events provided the backdrop for Brooks' hymn which was originally written for children. The words remind us of that life changing event that happened that Christmas Eve.  And the miracle continues today ... "where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in."  The tune was written by Lewis H. Redner and he said that it came to him on Christmas Eve and was first sung the next day.  Within the beauty of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is one of God's promises from the prophet Micah: "Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the little towns of Judah, but from you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times." (Micah 5:2, GNB).   The last verse is a prayer.  In fact, it is such an awesome Christmas prayer that we sing it with evangelistic fervor:  "O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born to us today ...  O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel."  During this Christmas season rejoice in the truth and wonder of this amazing event that happened centuries ago.



O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel  

Listen to the music here.      LISTEN