Tuesday, December 13, 2011


In 1707, Isaac Watts wrote this about hymn singing:  

"While we sing the Praises of our God in his Church, we are employed in that part of Worship which of all others is the nearest a-kin to Heaven: and ‘tis pity that this of all others should be performed the worst upon Earth…. To see the dull Indifference, the negligent and the thoughtless Air that sits upon the Faces of a whole Assembly, while the Psalm is on their Lips, might tempt even a charitable Observer to suspect the Fervency of inward Religion; and ‘tis much to be feared that the Minds of most of the Worshippers are absent or unconcerned."

It has given me reason to consider my own singing, do I enter the words, and do I voice them with resolve, passion and as an offering to the Lord. Perhaps even more importantly, is my voice on Sunday morning a reflection of my activity of worship in my week. We recently sang “Joy to the World”, Isaac Watts take on Psalm 98:4,9,  Two lines in particular caught my attention:

Let every heart prepare him room, ….
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
What is the evidence that my heart is a prepared room?  In part – if He dwells within me I will share in His compassions and see the world around me through His eyes. And what does that lead to? A life that is a river of blessing that flows from His dwelling in me out to a hurting and lost and joyless world,  At this time – when we enjoy so much abundance – I should be more in touch with the great want of hope and joy in the world around me and be taking daily steps to reach in to it with the love and compassions of Christ.
So – as I look forward to more great Christmas singing on Sunday - how will I really join in the angels songs and avoid the indifference and lack of fervency that Watts spoke of? I guess it begins today – being an avenue of blessing to those who don’t experience or know the Joy that has come into the world.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


It is always amazing at how mindlessly we can sing particularly when the songs are so familiar. A couple weeks ago we sang the Christmas carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."  I have sung it many times and yet it had never really connected with me before. The words sounded new and fresh. Interestingly enough I was completely unaware of the story behind the song. Henry W. Longfellow wrote it as a poem on Christmas Day of 1864. The country had been immersed in civil war and was experiencing something very different than "peace on earth.." Three years prior to writing the poem, Longfellow's wife had died in a tragic accident and the following year he would write during Christmas that there was no joy in the celebration. One year before writing the poem one of his son's was severely wounded in the war. It is no wonder that he would write "in despair I bowed my head: there is no peace on earth I said."

How many of us struggle with God's promised peace and the tangible realities of a world in chaos and struggle and our own hurts, disappointments and losses in life. It seems that at Christmas those questions and losses seem to be more intense. It takes a couple years but Longfellow does go on to write "then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead: nor doth He sleep!" The experience of Christ's work, the reality of His ongoing movement in the world, and the sounding truth from His Word do  - at just the right time - sound louder and deeper than the doubts and despairs of our own hearts. Just when we start to think that the Lord is absent - He shows up and touches our hearts with assurance and promise and a restoration of hope.

The bells of Christmas worship will ring out this week ... at church, in your car, at home, in the mall. Perhaps it will be a bell that sounds of joy, or perhaps a bell that sounds the hope of rescue, or perhaps it is a bell that wakes us up from slumber and complacency... there is Good News in it - always - "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!"

1. 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.

2. I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

3. And in despair I bowed my head
'There is no peace on earth,' I said,
'For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'

4. 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.'

5. 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.