Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord - Ephesians 5:19 NKJV
It is almost Thanksgiving, which in my calendar means slowly switching from the hymns to Christmas Carols. But before bidding adieu to In the Garden, How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace, I wanted to take a moment to write about the connecting power of hymns. First of all, I did not grow up listening to hymns. To be sure the choir sang something at the Congregational church where I attended with my family, however I had no idea what they were singing. The ancient stone building echoed so that I assumed they might have been singing in Latin. The first time I heard a hymn I could understand was when I was nineteen years old. As a child of the 60’s I grew up listening to the Beatles, Stones, Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and Joni Mitchel. So, when I gave my life to Christ at a Pentecostal church, I was amazed to hear their camp meeting hymns along with the early praise choruses that eventually led to the contemporary Christian music of today. The most delightful thing of all was that everybody sang. Old folks and young folks all looked like they were having a great time. The music helped to connect generations and some of the rowdiest of the bunch were often the old timers! A hearty HAAAALEEEELUUUUJAH! would sometimes suddenly arise from the sweetest old lady or grey-haired saint, right in the middle of a verse, causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand up!
I remember we had two song books in those days. There was a large, hard covered hymnal as well as a small soft covered chorus book. When the worship leader would call out, “Please turn to number 439”, I always marveled at the number of songs between those covers. Today, I realize that just counting Charles Wesley and Fanny Crosby, there are thousands to choose from, and when you sprinkle in America the Beautiful, Christmas carols, Easter hymns and Amazing Grace, it makes you realize that what we hold in our hands is only the tip of the iceberg of what has been left to us through 2,000 years of church history. And these songs connect us, not only to the generations who sit in the seat next to us, but also to everyone who has ever put their faith in Christ. We are reminded that Martin Luther, John Newton, Saint Patrick and Isaac Watts are still living and singing with us in the unseen choir loft of Heaven. More importantly these precious words and melodies of our “Rock of Ages cleft for me”, who is “Perfect in power in love and purity.” also connect us to Jesus Christ. They remind us that “We have decided to follow Jesus” and that we must “Surrender all to Thee my precious Savior!” and will joyfully “Crown Him with many crowns!” They tell us about “What a day that will be, when our Jesus we will see!” and that forever “He will walk with me and talk with me and tell me that I am His own!”