I just received a new personal worship book, The Book of Worship, compiled by John Randall Dennis, and the reading for today echoes the prayer I’ve been praying all month to find the stillness in this season of Advent. We read it tonight at dinner as we lit the fourth candle at home:
Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces
to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward
to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for
the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”
I still have so much to do before Christmas Day but I’m trying to find the quiet spaces of my day. To be thankful. To soak it in. To listen. I’m praying you find those moments too.
“Lord I Need You” was written a few years ago by Matt Maher, Jesse Reeves, Kristian Stanfill, Christy Nockels, and Daniel Carson. I love the words and the message of the song. (My thoughts on using this song with a congregation are at the bottom of this post.)
Lord, I come, I confess.
Bowing here, I find my rest.
And without You, I fall apart.
You’re the one that guides my heart.
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You.
Ev’ry hour I need You.
My one defense, my righteousness;
Oh, God, how I need You.
Where sin runs deep, Your grace is more.
Where grace is found is where You are.
And where You are, Lord, I am free.
Holiness is Christ in me.
So teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way.
And when I cannot stand, I’ll fall on You.
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay.
So, a couple of thoughts on using this song with a congregation: Musically, this song is written as a solo — specifically, a male solo. It starts with the verse in a low register and midway through the second verse, it jumps up an octave to a high register with the male worship leader singing in unison with the women. It’s very effective as a moment of drama in the music. But the vocal range in the original key is nearly two octaves and as a worship leader, I have to ask, what do I expect the congregation to do here? Do I expect everyone in my congregation to have this vocal range? Do I expect the congregation to break up into two-part harmony with the men on a high melody and all the women on an alto part? Or do I expect all the women to sing the whole song in the lowest part of their voice? Or make the jump with the men? I’ve seen a couple of guys transpose it to G which makes most of the song more accessible but then the bridge gets awkward — either it is sung way too high or you have to jump down to sing the words “So teach my song to rise to You.” For our congregation, I transposed it to the key of E and skipped the octave jump. It puts the whole song in a nice range for the whole congregation..
Grace and peace.
I had family plans last weekend and was unable to find someone to take my place so by necessity and by design, I planned a service without music for last Sunday, focusing instead on worship through group and solo scripture readings.
Hymnals are a great resource for congregational readings and the one with the best contemporary readings that I have found is the Celebration Hymnal by Word/Integrity.
Another resource I used is the Daily Light Devotional which is composed completely of selected scriptures.
Here’s our service from last week:
Congregational responsive reading from Psalm 145
Daily Light reading using the following scriptures: Luke 1:49; Exod. 15:11; Ps. 86:8; Rev. 15:4; Matt. 6:9; Luke 1:68; Isa. 63:1; Ps. 89:19; Eph. 3:20-21
Congregational reading from Philippians 2:1-11
The church then celebrated the remembrance of the Lord’s Supper.
Sometimes it’s good to do things differently to connect to hearts in a different way.
On my facebook page on Good Friday, many of my friends posted something along the lines of, “It’s Friday but Sunday’s coming!” And it bothered me. Not that it isn’t true, because of course without the resurrection our faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:1-19). But, because on Good Friday, our focus should just be the cross. Good Friday is not a party. It’s a time to reflect on the suffering and death of Jesus. As one of our songs from that evening says, “It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished. His dying breath has bought me life, I know that it is finished.” So our music focused on the cross.
Here was our order of service:
Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 53:4-6
The Power of the Cross
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
There’s a great post by Tsh Oxenreider over at (in)courage this week about some of the greatest hymns ever written and the impact these hymns have had on the church. She has most of my favorites on her list and I’ve enjoyed listening to the accompanying playlist.
1. Be Thou My Vision
2. All Creatures of Our God and King
4. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
5. Amazing Grace
6. Just As I Am
7. Holy, Holy Holy
8. Before the Throne
9. It Is Well
10. How Great Thou Art
11. Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Click here to see more.
How about you? Are there any of your favorites that didn’t make her list?
This particular video is mostly narration, but I love it for the history and drama of this great song. To me, this is the “It Is Well” of Christmas hymns. Written by a man who faced tragedy in his personal life yet who found his peace in Jesus Christ.
Micah 5:5 And He will be their peace.
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th-unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
Words: Henry W. Longfellow
Music: John Calkin
Thom Rainer of Lifeway recently had a blog post listing the top 25 hymns sung in churches.
- How Great Thou Art
- Great Is Thy Faithfulness
- Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine
- All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
- Holy, Holy, Holy
- Jesus Paid It All
- Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
- Crown Him with Many Crowns
- It Is Well with My Soul
- To God Be the Glory
- The Solid Rock
- Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
- I Stand Amazed in the Presence
- Victory in Jesus
- Nothing but the Blood
- Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound
- Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
- At the Cross
- Revive Us Again
- Be Thou My Vision
- Because He Lives
- Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
- A Mighty Fortress is Our God
- For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
- America, the Beautiful
Of the top ten, we have sung all of them at our church except for “Blessed Assurance” and “To God be the Glory.”I would argue that there are many on this list that are gospel songs rather than hymns and I think there’s a definite Southern Baptist bent to the list (“Victory in Jesus”).
My favorites from this list are “Be Thou My Vision” and “Come Thou Fount” which land at #12 and #20. Not on this list that I think should be: “All Creatures of Our God and King.”
What’s your favorite hymn? Are any of your favorites not included on this list?