My Free Gift to You:
A Reconstituted Hymn for Easter 2017
[Editor’s Note: Around the world Easter services will overflow with some of the most beautiful music ever heard—usually with vivid declarations of the majesty and victory of God’s Son. In this blog, David Bryant takes a moment to raise a concern about the focus of worship in today’s church. But then he offers us his own rewritten lyric of a familiar hymn, giving us a new song of praise about the glory of Christ just in time for this season when we focus on Jesus’ resurrection.]
Arguably the Church’s most gifted hymn writer, Charles Wesley (1707-1788) composed lyrics for over 6,000 (!) hymns. These spiritual texts helped foster and sustain both the First and Second Great Awakenings in England, America, and beyond. Dozens are still sung in congregations around the world in a variety of languages.
Most of the hymns in Wesley’s repertoire are clearly Christ-driven. In a comprehensive approach, they proclaim vital biblical testimonies to the deity, attributes, saving ministry, and active reign of God’s Son.
Among the most frequently sung around the Easter season are And Can It Be That I Should Gain an Interest in My Savior’s Blood and Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today! (See an abridged list of hymns here)
So Who Are We Singing About Today?
Christ was clearly Wesley’s focus. On the other hand, if you leaf through the average modern hymn or worship songbook (choose one from any denomination) you’ll quickly discover how relatively few selections actually focus on the person of Christ, to exalt him and exult in him.
Instead, many focus on topics that revolve around ourselves—our Christian experiences, longings, challenges, and battles. Even those that do give Jesus more than an “honorable mention” often do so in the context of singing about the ways we need him to meet our needs, fulfill our lives, and secure our future.
But this problem is more than old vs. new. Unfortunately, what can be said about a good number of contemporary worship songs can apply to many “traditional” hymns as well.
Prove it to yourself. The next time your group shares a session of praise (traditional or contemporary), ask yourself when it is over: Have these minutes left us, above all, with a larger vision of Christ and greater reasons to focus our praises and passions entirely on him for all he is?
Singing mostly about how Christ blesses us is a far cry from what Paul had in mind when he wrote in Colossians 3:
Let the message about Christ live among you like a rich treasure . . . by singing psalms and hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing to God with thanks in your hearts . . . in the name of the Lord Jesus (NIRV).
Or again in Ephesians 5:
. . . be filled with the Holy Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord [Jesus]. Always give thanks to God the Father . . . in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (NIRV).
According to Revelation 5, introverted hymning is the opposite of the kind of worship going on at this moment around Jesus’ throne:
The Lamb, who was put to death, is worthy! He is worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength! He is worthy to receive honor and glory and praise! (NIRV).
It’s Time to Sing a New Song!
So, in honor of Easter 2017 I’d like to give you a new Christ-focused song to sing. This could be very easy for you because you may already know the tune.
The melody is to the widely sung hymn Glorious Things of You Are Spoken, Zion City of Our God.
The words of this hymn are by John Newton; the music was composed by Franz Joseph Haydn. Although the focus of the piece is thoroughly biblical, its main emphasis is on the environment in which God’s children live—called the City of Zion—and how that community ministers to our needs. It’s all true. It’s all important. Still, we need to ask: Who and where is Christ in all of this? Newton’s hymn is vague concerning him.
So without diminishing the value of its original intent—actually, drawing on the poetic flow of the verses—I’d like to give you new lyrics that explicitly magnify the supremacy of Christ, making him the “glorious thing” we celebrate. I’ve done so with the Resurrection in view.
Consider singing it this Easter season, in a private prayer time or with a company of saints. Or simply read it out loud, reflecting on how it leaves you with a victorious Savior filling all of your vision. (Listen to the tune here)
Glorious Things of You Are Spoken, Jesus, Risen Son of God
Glorious things of you are spoken, Jesus, risen Son of God.
You whose word cannot be broken, pour your life into our abode.
At your feet with saints surrounded, here we join your victor’s shout!
On your resurrection grounded, what can put our praises out?
At your empty tomb we’re hovering, where your blazing life appears.
You have now become our covering, every moment you are near!
All consumed with you, Lord Jesus, light our nights, and guide our days;
Let your majesty now seize us, draw us to your heart, we pray.
Fire of Passion, Fire of Mission, Fire that sets our love ablaze:
Grant us power, grant us vision, serving you through all our days.
May the world behold your glory, may your saints be filled with light;
May your gospel be our story until faith is turned to sight.
Caught up in your reigning residence, we have hope for years to come,
As your power gives forth evidence that the Church shines with the Son.
So, awaken us, dearest Savior; let us see your eyes aflame.
Wake up nations with your favor; king victorious, praise your name!
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ-proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI) and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely-read book at www.ChristIsAllBook.com.