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History of Hymns: French carol highlights animals in nativity story

“The Friendly Beasts” French Carol UM Hymnal, No. 227 Jesus, our brother, strong and good, was humbly born in a stable rude, and the friendly beasts around him stood, Jesus, our brother, strong and good. “The Friendly Beasts” probably originated in 12th-century France. Sometimes known as “The Song of the Ass,” “The Donkey Carol” or […]

History of Hymns: ‘There’s a Song in the Air’ dates from late romantic era

“There’s a Song in the Air” Josiah G. Holland UM Hymnal, No. 249 There’s a song in the air! There’s a star in the sky! There’s a mother’s deep prayer and a baby’s low cry! And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing, for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King! There is […]

History of Hymns: ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ brings us all to the manger

This favorite Christmas hymn appears to be the result of a collaboration of several people. What we sing is a 19th-century version of a hymn written in the 18th century.

History of Hymns: ‘like a child’ conveys baby Jesus’ vulnerability

Traditionally many Christmas hymns have explored the birth of Jesus as the coming of a monarch.

For example, Charles Wesley wrote, “Hark! the herald angels sing, / ‘Glory to the new-born King!’” The refrain of another traditional English carol echoes this: “Noel, born is the King of Israel.” Isaac Watts wrote, “Let earth receive her King.”

History of Hymns: Advent hymn harkens back to ninth century

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” 9th-Century Latin hymn UM Hymnal, No. 211 O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. This hymn, originally in Latin, takes us back over 1,200 years to monastic […]

History of Hymns: ‘At the Name’ expresses self-emptying of Christ

“At the Name of Jesus” Caroline Noel UM Hmnal, No. 168 At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, every tongue confess him King of glory now; ’tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord, who from the beginning was the mighty Word.  Hymns often magnify Scripture. Caroline Noel’s “At the Name of […]

History of Hymns: English hymn rejoices in ‘Fruit of This Creation’

“For the Fruit of This Creation” Fred Pratt Green UM Hymnal, No. 97  For the fruit of this creation, Thanks be to God; For good gifts to every nation, Thanks be to God; For the plowing, sowing, reaping, Silent growth while we are sleeping, Future needs in earth’s safe-keeping, Thanks be to God. * Many […]

History of Hymns: ‘This Is My Song’ serves as prayer for global peace

“This Is My Song” Lloyd Stone and Georgia Harkness UM Hymnal, No. 437 This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands afar and mine. This is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine; but other hearts in […]

History of Hymns: John’s sermon, Charles’ hymn celebrate justification by faith

“Let Us Plead for Faith Alone” Charles Wesley UM Hymnal, No. 385 Let us plead for faith alone, faith by which our works is shown; God it is who justifies, only faith the grace applies. “To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans […]

History of Hymns: ‘Come Sunday’ reflects Duke Ellington’s faith & sacred jazz tradition

“Come Sunday” Duke Ellington UM Hymnal, No. 728 Come Sunday, oh, come Sunday, that’s the day. Duke Ellington (1899-1974) once said, “By and large, jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with.” Yet, this master of jazz has a hymn in the United Methodist Hymnal! […]