Category Archives: Articles on Hymnody

Singing as a Response and Witness

Singing as a Response and Witness

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Sing to the Lord a New Song You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Psalm 96 is a call to sing, and it gives us clear explanation of why we are supposed to sing. As we have already seen, the very structure of the psalm gives both calls to sing and reasons for that singing. So what, then, are the reasons David gives for singing to the Lord? Worthiness… Continue Reading

Singing: Response to Who God Is and What He Has Done

Singing: Response to Who God Is and What He Has Done

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Sing to the Lord a New Song You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

We are studying Psalm 96 in an attempt to answer the question, Why sing? Last week we saw that the unique power of singing is that it helps us to express affections of the heart in ways that would not be possible if we didn’t have song. Song gives us a language for the expression… Continue Reading

Two Views on Christ’s Invitation

Two Views on Christ’s Invitation

Below are two works of Christian imagination. Both attempt to depict what it means for Christ to invite sinners to Himself, and how sinners should understand themselves. On closer examination, however, they are nearly opposite in meaning. We do not see the same Christ, the same Gospel and the same dilemma of the sinner in… Continue Reading

An Enthronement Psalm

An Enthronement Psalm

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Sing to the Lord a New Song You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Psalm 96 was placed by the editors of the psalms in a series that are unified by a common poetic genre and theme. Psalms 93–100 are often referred to as “Enthronement Psalms,” since their central message is affirmation of God’s kingly reign over all things. This psalm in particular is an Enthronement Psalm directly connected… Continue Reading

Sing to the Lord a New Song

Sing to the Lord a New Song

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Sing to the Lord a New Song You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

It has always been a characteristic of God’s people that they are a singing people. This was Paul’s admonition when he commanded Christians in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 to sing. Early church father John Chrysostom emphasized the power of singing when he said, “Nothing so arouses the soul, gives it wings, sets it free… Continue Reading

What is a “traditional hymn”?

What is a “traditional hymn”?

A friend recently asked how I would define a “traditional hymn” in contrast to a “contemporary worship song,” so I thought I’d post my response here as well: The difference has nothing to do with when the song was written, which is why I actually don’t like “traditional” or “contemporary” as modifiers. I prefer to… Continue Reading

Aus Tiefer Not – “Out of the Depths”

Aus Tiefer Not – “Out of the Depths”

This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Out of the Depths You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

For most of church history, singing songs of repentance was part of regular, weekly corporate worship, a practice with precedent in Psalms like Psalm 130. During the Reformation in particular, men like Martin Luther wrote songs of repentance, one of which is a paraphrase of Psalm 130. “Aus Tiefer Not”—“Out of the Depths”—was Luther’s German… Continue Reading

The Tradition of Singing Songs of Repentance

The Tradition of Singing Songs of Repentance

This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series Out of the Depths You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

We are coming to the end of our study of Psalm 130. Last week we saw that when you’re living in a state of unconfessed sin, or you are taking the grace and forgiveness of God for granted, a song of repentance may be just what you need to shake you out of your lethargy.… Continue Reading

A plea for singing hymns in family worship

A plea for singing hymns in family worship

It’s no secret that people sing much less than they used to. Generally, as a culture, we listen to a lot of music, but make very little. We leave music making to professionals. And this is to our loss as a society. In Wiser than Despair, Quentin Faulkner asks us to “Consider … the disappearance of community singing (whether… Continue Reading

Why We Sing Repentance

Why We Sing Repentance

This entry is part 10 of 13 in the series Out of the Depths You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Psalm 130, a corporate song of repentance, has shown us the power of art to both tell us what true repentance should be like and also show us artistically through use of metaphors, and repetition, careful word choice, and names for God. And this is why we sing. We sing not only to say right things, although… Continue Reading

Twelfth Hymn of Christmas: Behold, the Great Creator

Twelfth Hymn of Christmas: Behold, the Great Creator

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

“Behold, the Great Creator,” written by Thomas Pestel in 1539, juxtaposes the mystery of the Creator of all who made himself “a house of clay.” The tune, THIS ENDRIS NYGHT, is a beautiful English carol from the 15th century. Behold, the great Creator makes Himself a house of clay, a robe of virgin flesh He takes… Continue Reading

Eleventh Hymn of Christmas: Christians, Awake!

Eleventh Hymn of Christmas: Christians, Awake!

This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

A lesser known Christmas hymn, “Christians, Awake!” retells the Luke 2 story in a powerful and vivid way. Medical doctor John Byrom wrote this text in 1749 simply as a devotional poem. The tune, YORKSHIRE, by John Wainwright, perfectly captures the exuberance of the text and the subject matter. Christians, awake! Salute the happy morn… Continue Reading

Tenth Hymn of Christmas: See Amid the Winter’s Snow

Tenth Hymn of Christmas: See Amid the Winter’s Snow

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Like Rosetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter,” Edward Caswall metaphorically connects the cold of winter to the condition of the earth at Jesus’s birth. He wrote “See Amid the Winter’s Snow” in 1858, a retelling of Luke 2 with some powerfully imagery like “Lo, within a manger lies He who built the starry skies.” See, amid… Continue Reading

Ninth Hymn of Christmas: All My Heart This Night Rejoices

Ninth Hymn of Christmas: All My Heart This Night Rejoices

This entry is part 9 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Written by German pastor Johann Gerhardt in 1653 and translated into English in 1858 by Catherine Winkworth, “All My Heart This Night Rejoices” explores the great value of the incarnation. Most poignantly, “He becomes the Lamb that taken sin away and for aye full atonement maketh.” All my heart this night rejoices as I hear… Continue Reading

Eighth Hymn of Christmas: In the Bleak Midwinter

Eighth Hymn of Christmas: In the Bleak Midwinter

This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

In “In the Bleak Midwinter,” Christina Rosetti poetically pictures the cold, dark, hard condition of the earth when Jesus came to save us. This recognition should cause us to give ourselves–all that we have–to him. The tune, CRANHAM, comes from English composer Gustav Host in 1906. In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth… Continue Reading

Seventh Hymn of Christmas: From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

Seventh Hymn of Christmas: From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

“From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” was one of Martin Luther’s first hymns, penned in 1535 and translated into English by Catherine Winkworth in 1855. Luther modeled the first stanza after a well-known German folksong, and wrote the text originally for his family’s Christmas devotions. He originally used the folk tune with the text,… Continue Reading

Sixth Hymn of Christmas: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Sixth Hymn of Christmas: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Staying with the theme of German carols, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” comes from the fifteenth century and was translated by a couple different people into English in 1894, 1875, and 1914. The hymn develops Isaiah’s prophesy concerning the “rose” from the “stem of Jesse ” (Isa. 11:1; 35:1-2). The tune is a traditional German… Continue Reading

Fifth Hymn of Christmas: How Bright Appears the Morning Star

Fifth Hymn of Christmas: How Bright Appears the Morning Star

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Known as the “Queen of the Chorales,” this Lutheran hymn by Philpp Nicolai was written in 1599. Unusual for this time period, Nicolai also composed the tune, WIE SCHÖN LEUCHTET. As is often true of German chorales, “How Bright Appears the Morning Star” masterfully combined rich incarnation theology with devotional warmth, as the singer cries, “Jesus,… Continue Reading

Fourth Hymn of Christmas: Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light

Fourth Hymn of Christmas: Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light

This entry is part 4 of 12 in the series 12 Hymns of Christmas You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

The German Lutheran tradition has a rich heritage of Christmas hymns. “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light” comes from Lutheran pastor, Johann Rist in 1641. He originally wrote a 12-stanza poem on the incarnation that was later paraphrased and adapted as a hymn. It recalls the brilliant light at then heralding of the angels and… Continue Reading