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Notes on the Notes – November 25, 2012

This Sunday is the final Sunday of the liturgical year.  It is commonly referred to as “Reign of Christ” or “Christ the King” Sunday.   The music for worship will be:

“You Servants of God” (VU #342) – This hymn, from Charles Wesley’s Hymns for times of Trouble and Persecution (1744), was written amid the political turmoil of the mid-17th century, which included the uprising of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1745 and the persecution of the Methodists.   The differences leading to Christians persecuting Christians are often more political than religious.  That was certainly true for the Wesleys – John and Charles.  They led a religious revival that shook up the religious establishment – something likely to attract hostility.  Perhaps that was the reason that people accused them of trying to overthrow the king – of supporting a Pretender to the throne.  Whatever the reason, the hostility was thick.  On one occasion, a mob dragged John down the street by his hair.  They threw rocks to break up evangelistic meetings.

It was during this time of persecution that Charles Wesley wrote the hymn, “Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim.” Wesley included this hymn in a pamphlet entitled “Hymns for Times of Trouble and Persecution.”  In its original form, the hymn included verses not found in our hymnals today –– verses having to do with faithfulness in the midst of persecution.

Wesley’s hymn also called for worship of the true king –– the king of the universe –– our master –– our God.  It is these verses that we find in our hymnal today.  The amazing thing about these verses is their triumphant note:

“Then let us adore and give as is right,

All glory and power, all wisdom and might,

All honor and blessing, with angels above,

And Thanks never ceasing, and infinite love.”

The text was revised in 1987 by Gerald Hobbs, the editor of Songs for a Gospel People, to modernize the language.

“O Love, How Deep” – (VU #348) – Here is the life of Christ in a nutshell, followed by a glorious doxology.   The text is from a 15th-century manuscript found in Karlsruhe, Germany.  It was translated by Benjamin Webb and published in 1854.  It was revised for Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1861!

“This hymn looks with wonder on the love expressed through Jesus’ life –– how he came down from heaven to live among us (v. 1) –– how he bore temptations for us and was baptized for our sake (v. 3) –– how he prayed for us and worked for us (v. 4) ––how he died for us (v. 5) –– and rose from death to return to his heavenly home (v. 6).  It calls us to give glory to “our Lord and God for love so deep, so high, so broad.”

We have heard so much about Jesus being born in a manger that we have largely lost our sense of wonder that God would come down from heaven to live among us –– and to die for us.  It is a true story of a prince becoming a pauper to serve his people.  We need to be reminded that God loves us and has gone to great lengths to save us.  We need to recover our sense of wonder that God would love us even when we don’t deserve it.” –– Copyright 2007, Richard Niell Donovan

“Holy is Your Name” – This anthem, by Don Besig and Nancy Price, is a beautiful ballad of power and praise.  The attributes of Jesus are announced through this inspiring text.   The song reminds us of the many sides of Jesus:  Master, Counselor, Friend, Prophet, Lamb, Alpha and Omega, Son of God, Teacher, Lord and King, among others, and that Jesus is always worthy of praise.

“Come, Children, Join to Sing” (VU #345) – This hymn was written originally for children by Christian Henry Bateman, who also wrote a number of other children’s hymns.  He published them in a children’s hymnal entitled The Sacred Song Book, which was very popular in Scotland.  Over time, adults found that they enjoyed singing this hymn, and changed the title to “Come, Christians, Join to Sing.”  In Voices United, the hymn returns to its original title.

“Come, Children, Join to Sing” is a call to singing –– joyful singing –– singing in praise of Christ our King.  It repeats a pair of words, “Alleluia! Amen!” three times in each verse.  Alleluia (or Hallelujah) comes from the Hebrew and means “Praise God.” “Amen!” is Greek and means “Truly.”  So this hymn calls us to praise God truly!

The hymn tune usually sung with this hymn is known as “Spanish Melody.”  Benjamin Carr, a Philadelphia music publisher, put the tune together with Bateman’s words.  One of the reasons the hymn has been so popular for nearly two centuries is that the tune has the same vigorous, joyful character as the words.  It is fun to sing!!!  –– Copyright 2007, Richard Niell Donovan


Categories: Notes on the Notes