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, December 27, 2015


          For centuries Israel had waited for God to fulfill His promises and send His anointed one to rescue them.  The Old Testament Scriptures are filled with the prophecies of His coming kingdom and His power and love.  And yet for hundreds of years there was no sign or word of this promised One.   I am sure that many had grown weary of waiting and had just given up hope.  But others continued to have hope as they watched for Him and prayed for His arrival.  And the great hymn writer, Charles Wesley (1707-1788), tried to capture this great expectation when he penned this hymn.  It is interesting to note that Wesley is credited with writing more than 6,500 hymns.  I don't know at what age he composed his first, but I would estimate that he had to write an average of 100 per year and, personally, I find that incredible. This particular hymn was first published in 1744 in Wesley's Hymns for the "Nativity of Our Lord", a little collection so popular that it was reprinted 20 times during his lifetime. Published in two eight-line stanzas, this hymn is now generally sung in the Advent season rather than during the nativity of Christ as the title of the collection indicates.  The first verse focuses on the fact that the coming of Jesus Christ fulfilled Israel's longing for the Messiah. As the one whose coming was prophesied in the Old Testament, He is the "long-expected Jesus." A few of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled are Isaiah 7:14, which spoke of a virgin giving birth to a child whose name would mean "God with us;" Isaiah 9:6, which told of a child whose name would be called "Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, eternal Father, the Prince of Peace;" and Micah 5:2, which said that from Bethlehem would come a ruler whose "goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity."   These and many similar prophecies looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, and, as mentioned previously, many devout Jews prayed earnestly for the day when He would arrive.  Although He fulfilled Israel's prophecies, Jesus came to bring salvation to the entire world, which is what Wesley was referring to when he described Christ as the "hope of all the earth" and the "dear desire of every nation." More than that, He is the "joy of every longing heart." He alone is the one who can satisfy every soul. The last verse then goes on to tell us why Jesus can meet our expectations. He was "born a child and yet a King." As the One who is both God and man, Jesus was able to satisfy God's wrath completely by dying on the cross for our sins. When Wesley wrote about Jesus' "all sufficient merit," he was referring to Christ's ability to bring us to salvation.  In his final phrase, "raise us to thy glorious throne", Wesley shares that someday, through the work of Christ, we will be united around the throne of God in heaven.  And now for over two thousand years believers have looked for that special day.  And like the early Israelites, some have grown weary of looking for the fulfillment of that promise.  But many, over the centuries, have prayed and looked with great hope for that day.  All God's prophecies and promises will be fulfilled - in His time.  And maybe, as we enter a new year, we should pray that 2016 might be the year when this promise is finally fulfilled and God's children are gathered home for all eternity.  Maybe our prayer during the coming new year should be, "come, thou long expected Jesus ... raise us to Thy glorious throne".

1. Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

2. Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

You can listen to it here.   LISTEN
Here, also, is an interesting video using this hymn as a background.   VIDEO

Sunday, December 20, 2015


          We Three Kings", also known as "We Three Kings of Orient Are" or "The Quest of the Magi", is a Christmas carol that was written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr., in 1857. At the time of composing the carol, Hopkins served as the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and he wrote the carol for a Christmas pageant in New York City. It was the first Christmas carol originating from the United States to achieve widespread popularity. Many versions of this song have been composed, but it remains one of the most popular and most frequently sung Christmas carol today.  Hopkins organized the carol in such a way that three male voices would each sing a single verse as a solo and the first and last verses of the carol were  sung together by all three.  But today the three male solos are seldom performed that way.   On a personal note, I grew up in a very small church that maintained the tradition of children participating in Christmas programs.  Unfortunately, there were only two other boys my age and so annually the three of us would be drafted to sing this song.  My verse was the one about frankincense and for many years the three of us struggled through this carol.  Decades later I still know the words to that verse.  The carol itself centers around the men who came from the East to visit Christ.  Despite the tradition of there being three magi, with the names of Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, the Bible does not identify the number, their background or even the time of their appearance.  While they could have been rulers, we have no reason to even believe that they were wealthy.  In fact, some Bible scholars believe "magi" could refer to a caste of Persian priests or sorcerers who were experts in astrology, divination and interpretation of dreams.  But what we do know is that they traveled some distance with the hopes of worshipping the newborn King of the Jews.  And they did bring gifts of great worth.  The gold prophesied of the child's kingship.  The frankincense spoke of the purity of his life and the myrrh predicted his coming death. Somebody has said that these three gifts represent what the Lord desires from us.  The gold could represent our most precious possessions and our hopes and dreams.  The frankincense could denote the pleasing fragrance that would come from living a life of holiness.  The myrrh could represent the fact that we have died to self and now live for Christ.  Together these gifts could signify giving Him our very life.  Have we done that?  As we sing this traditional carol this year, let's concentrate on doing just that.  May these words help us in daily giving our gifts to the King.  "Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be."  (Luke 12:34)

1.   We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

2.    Born a King on Bethlehem's plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

3.    Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

4.    Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

5.    Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav'n replies
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light.

This week you have three choices to hear this carol.  The first is done by a choir.   LISTEN 1
The second is done a cappella    LISTEN 2
The third is done by one of my favorite groups, The Piano Guys   LISTEN 3

Sunday, December 13, 2015


          It is interesting how some hymns bring back unusual memories.  Whenever I hear this week's hymn I picture some experiences that I had when I was a youngster, probably about 65 years ago.  During those years we attended an annual church camp meeting in Allentown.  About once a year they would hold what they called a "table offering" during a service and all of those who wanted to give an offering would march up front, in a line, and place their offering on the table.  And while this was being done they would sing and play "We're Marching To Zion".  I still don't know what the purpose of this tradition was but it was unusual and fortunately, at least in my opinion, soon eliminated.  But as I searched the history of this hymn it also brought to my mind something that I have observed in churches during the last 20 or so years - the controversy of hymns versus praise songs.  Unfortunately, this difference has created many problems in many churches and probably is still a sore point with some folks. People have even left churches because of this difference in opinion.  During the 17th and 18th centuries the music problem that stirred many congregations was should we sing Psalms or should we sing hymns in church services.  It is said that tempers actually frequently flared and some churches actually split in the heat of the decidedly inharmonious musical conflict. But in some churches a compromise was reached and they decided to sing Psalms at the beginning of their service and then after the preaching, they would sing hymns. Many people who were still against the hymns would get up and leave the service at this time in protest.  Isaac Watts  (1674-1748) was the lifelong champion of the "humanly composed" hymn and he may have written this hymn to refute his critics, who termed his hymns "Watts' Whims." This hymn first appeared in 1707 and was titled "Heavenly Joy on Earth." Some think he wrote this hymn to refute this practice of people walking out during the hymn singing. Read the words, especially stanza two, and you might understand the author's indictment of those people who he says "refuse to sing. Now I don't know if this is true or not, but it certainly could be. It was later put to music by the American gospel composer Robert Lowry (1826-1899). Some also think the hymn was written from the point of view of those Israelites who had been taken captive into a foreign land.  They are so mournful and depressed that they hang their harps in the poplars. and wonder, "Will we ever be able to sing the songs of Zion?"  Their captors mocked them and made fun of them urging them to sing the songs of Zion, but they could not.  Once again I don't know if this opinion is true.  But it is an inspiring song that reminds us of a time when we will be at home in heaven and singing praises around the throne of God.   And on this journey God provides "sacred sweets" before we reach the "heavenly fields."  Those "sacred sweets" are the daily blessings we receive while on earth.  Another day of life.  Another day to share with one another.  What a great hymn of hope and anticipation.  Sing it joyfully and enthusiastically this week.

1. Come, we that love the Lord, 
and let our joys be known; 
join in a song with sweet accord, 
join in a song with sweet accord 
and thus surround the throne, 
and thus surround the throne. 
We're marching to Zion, 
beautiful, beautiful Zion; 
we're marching upward to Zion, 
the beautiful city of God. 

2. Let those refuse to sing 
who never knew our God; 
but children of the heavenly King, 
but children of the heavenly King 
may speak their joys abroad, 
may speak their joys abroad. 
We're marching to Zion, 
beautiful, beautiful Zion; 
we're marching upward to Zion, 
the beautiful city of God

3. The hill of Zion yields 
a thousand sacred sweets 
before we reach the heavenly fields, 
before we reach the heavenly fields, 
or walk the golden streets, 
or walk the golden streets. 
We're marching to Zion, 
beautiful, beautiful Zion; 
we're marching upward to Zion, 
the beautiful city of God

4. Then let our songs abound, 
and every tear be dry; 
we're marching through Emmanuel's ground, 
we're marching through Emmanuel's ground, 
to fairer worlds on high, 
to fairer worlds on high. 
We're marching to Zion, 
beautiful, beautiful Zion; 
we're marching upward to Zion, 
the beautiful city of God

You can listen to it here.    LISTEN

Sunday, December 6, 2015


          It is said that C. T. Studd (1860-1931), a missionary to China, wrote  "Only one life, 'twill soon be past; Only what's done for Christ will last."  And these words are what inspired Avis B. Christiansen (1895-1985), an American hymn writer, to compose the words of this week's hymn.  Both Studd and Christiansen knew that there are so many things in which we can get ourselves involved during the time allotted to us on this earth. There are so many goals that we might set, and some are worthy while others are not. But we need to maintain an eternal perspective when we establish our schedules, our values and  our priorities. We need to choose what will truly "last"  and make a difference in God's kingdom. We need to pray for discernment to make wise choices between what is good and what is excellent.  None of us know how many days we have left here and as we grow older, some how the days seem to fly by faster each day.  Somebody has calculated a life of 70 years will contain about 25,568 days, or 613,632 hours, or 36,817,920 minutes.  That may seem like a long time, but the days quickly pass by ... one by one. The Bible says, "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews. 9:27).  "[Man's] days are determined, the number of his months is with You [God]; You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass" (Job 14:5). "The dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes. 12:7). Then, each of us must give an account to the Lord, "For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes. 12:14).  Christiansen produced hundreds of hymn poems over a period of some six decades, making her one of the more significant gospel song writers of the twentieth century. She said: "All of my songs have come from my own heart experiences with the Lord through more than sixty years of writing for his glory."  Encouraged by her grandmother, Avis began writing poetry at ten years of age. In 1916 she started writing the texts for hymns, something she did in collaboration with many gospel composers, for decades afterward. This gospel song was published in 1937.   The song of consecration ponders the significance of the days and hours God has allotted each of us, and the importance of being good stewards of them.  May we be challenged this week to meditate on these words and to examine our schedules and priorities.  Are we using our minutes and days to honor and worship the Lord.  Are our lives and activities consecrated to Him?  Can we say with the Apostle Paul, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." ( Philippians 1:21)

(1)     Only one life to offer
Jesus, my Lord and King;
Only one tongue to praise Thee
And of Thy mercy sing (forever);
Only one heart's devotion
Saviour, O may it be
Consecrated alone to Thy matchless glory,
Yielded fully to Thee.

(2)    Only this hour is mine, Lord
May it be used for Thee;
May ev'ry passing moment
Count for eternity (my Saviour);
Souls all about are dying,
Dying in sin and shame;
Help me bring them the message of Calv'ry's redemption
In Thy glorious name.

(3)     Only one life to offer
Take it, dear Lord, I pray;
Nothing from Thee withholding,
Thy will I now obey (my Jesus);
Thou who hast freely given
Thine all in all for me,
Claim this life for Thine own, to be used, my Saviour,
Ev'ry moment for Thee.

Listen to it here.    LISTEN