Christ Is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed

Christ Is Risen, He Is Risen Indeed (iTunes)
Words and Music by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Ed Cash
From the album Live at the Gospel Coalition (Getty Music Label, LLC)

This Easter Sunday we will be introducing a new resurrection hymn penned by modern hymnwriters Keith and Kristyn Getty in collaboration with songwriter and producer Ed Cash.  The Gettys, originally from Northern Ireland and now residing in Nashville, continue to team up with other writers and musicians to create powerful new hymns that proclaim the truths of the Gospel through beautiful, accessible melodies.  No stranger to collaboration, Ed Cash has worked with many Christian musicians, including Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin, and Caedmon's Call.

The title for this week's hymn comes from the traditional Easter greeting, "Christ is risen!/He is risen indeed!"  It focuses on the story of Christ's resurrection and his disciples' response.  The text invites us to believe in Jesus' power over the grave, to join the chorus of the redeemed, and to tell the nations of God's goodness.


Joy to the World

Joy to the World (iTunes)
Words by Isaac Watts, Music by G.F. Handel
From the album Sanctuary (Olivia's Attic Music)

"Joy to the World" is one of the most popular Christmas hymns ever written. However, it was not originally written as a Christmas hymn.  English hymnwriter Isaac Watts (known as the "Father of English Hymnody" for writing about 750 hymns) based the text on Psalm 98 and intended it to be a hymn proclaiming Christ's second coming, rather than remembering his birth in Bethlehem. The verses we now sing only comprise the second half of Watts' original text, which was first published in 1719. Baroque composer George Frederic Handel is given some credit for writing the tune, as the music reflects themes in his famous oratorio Messiah.  However, American church musician, Lowell Mason (born in Medfield, MA), put together the hymn arrangement that we sing today. Mason wrote over 1600 hymn tunes himself, and had a hymnal published by Boston's Handel and Haydn Society.  He is well-known for introducing music programs into American public schools and is thought of as the first music educator in the U.S. Among other positions, he also served as organist and choirmaster at Park Street Church.

This week's recording is by folk singer-songwriter Claire Holley, who included it on her album Sanctuary in 1999.


Angels We Have Heard On High

Angels We Have Heard On High (iTunes)
Words and music from French Carol, Music arr. by Edward Shippen Barnes
From the album The 50 Greatest Songs of Christmas (Ross Records)

In "Angels We Have Heard On High," singers share the story of the shepherds' encounter with the choir of angels as told in Luke 2:8-18.  The text comes from a French carol entitled "Les Anges dans nos campagnes" ("Angels in our countryside").  It was translated into English in 1862 by James Chadwick (1813-1882), a Roman Catholic Bishop in northeast England.

The tune, known as GLORIA, was arranged as we know it today by Edward Shippen Barnes (1887-1958), an American organist and graduate of Yale University.  Probably the most well-known part of the carol, the refrain "Gloria in excelsis deo," is the Latin rendition of the angels' anthem in Luke 2, "Glory to God in the highest!"  The melody line here includes a long melisma, in which one syllable of text is sung to many notes in succession.  The hymn is a joyful proclamation of God's glory and an invitation to worship the newborn King.


Away In a Manger

Away In a Manger (iTunes)
Words anonymous, Music by William Kirkpatrick
From the album Peace On Earth (Provident Label Group LLC)

Although this week's featured hymn is one of the most beloved Christmas carols in the English language, its origins are unknown.  The first two verses of "Away In a Manger" were first published in May 1884 by a publishing house in Boston, and were titled "Luther's Cradle Song."  However, the attribution to Martin Luther is most likely false.  The third verse was added in 1892, sometimes said to be written by John MacFarland, but again, that attribution is probably not accurate.  The text, which is often considered a children's carol, begins with a description of the newborn Jesus in the manger (from Luke 2:4-7) and ends with a prayer that Jesus would remain close to his children.

There are at least 41 tunes connected with this carol, with melodies written by James Murray (1887) and William Kirkpatrick (1895) being the most commonly sung.  These tunes have the gentle lilt of a lullaby.


What Child Is This

What Child Is This (iTunes)
Words by William C. Dix, Music from English folk song
From the album In the Town of David (Ordinary Time)

William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898) was born in Bristol, England.  As a young man, he moved to Glasgow, England and worked as a manager of an insurance company.  When he was 29 years old, he became seriously ill and was confined to his bed for months.  He experienced a spiritual crisis during this time, followed by a time of renewal, in which he wrote poems, several of which became hymns we sing today.  One such poem, "The Manger Throne" written in 1865, was the basis for this week's hymn.  The first two verses of "What Child Is This" pose questions that are then answered; the first verse describes Jesus sleeping in the manger, and the second explains his reason for coming - to bear the cross for us sinners.  The final verse invites singers to come to Christ the king and worship.

The tune, known as "Greensleeves" was published as early as 1580 and first associated with the lyrics of a love ballad.


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (iTunes)
Words from a Latin hymn, translated by John Mason Neale
Music from 13th century plainsong, arranged by Thomas Helmore

Many Advent hymns are based on ancient texts and tunes that portray the longing and expectation of the season. This week's hymn began as a Latin text "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" centering around the "O Antiphons" from the final week of Advent vespers (evening prayer services). The "O Antiphons" were sung responses for choir and congregation, named because each one begins with "O" (O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O King of the Nations, O Emmanuel). The text originates from sometime between the 8th and 12th centuries and was translated into English by John Mason Neale (1818-1866) around 1850. Neale was an Anglican priest who was best known as a translator of ancient Greek and Latin hymns, including "Of the Father's Love Begotten," "Good Christian Men, Rejoice," and many others.

The tune that accompanies "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" came from a French Franciscan convent of nuns working in Portugal in the 15th century. Thomas Helmore (1811-1890), an Anglican priest and choirmaster, arranged the tune in the version we sing today. During his career, he became interested in medieval plainsong and worked with Neale to publish several collections of ancient Christmas carols. Because of the work of these men, believers today continue to sing the rich hymns of the church from centuries past.


Our Great God

Our Great God (iTunes)
Words and Music by Fernando Ortega and Mac Powell
From the album Resolved Music, Vol. I (Resolved Music)

Christian singer/songwriter Fernando Ortega, a native of New Mexico, began studying music as a child. His musical style is influenced by his Hispanic heritage, his classical training, traditional hymnody, and the ancient liturgies of the church. Ortega worked together with singer/songwriter Mac Powell to write "Our Great God." Powell is best known as the lead singers of the Christian rock band Third Day. Ortega described the origins of the song in an interview back in 2011:

"I co-wrote 'Our Great God' around 2000 with Mac Powell... He wrote the music and one line of the song, and asked me to supply the rest of the words. We completed it by passing CDs back and forth in the mail." 

The result of their collaboration is a joyful song of praise that acknowledges our human frailty, rejoices in God's grace, love, and sovereignty, and invites all of creation to worship his name.


What Wondrous Love Is This

What Wondrous Love Is This (iTunes)
American folk hymn
From the album Hymns Project, Vol. 2 (Moonpeople Music)

The text of this simple, but beautiful hymn is of unknown origin. It was first published in 1811 in both a Baptist and a Methodist hymnal. Similarly, the composer of the tune, "WONDROUS LOVE", remains anonymous. The melody's meter comes from an old English ballad. The text and tune first came together in the second edition of William Walker's Southern Harmony in 1840 and appeared again in The Sacred Harp, compiled by Benjamin Franklin White, in 1844. In its four stanzas, the hymn focuses on Christ's wondrous love, which he demonstrated through his death on the cross for our salvation, and which invites us to respond with songs of praise. Romans 5:8 reminds us, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."


We Rest On Thee

We Rest On Thee (iTunes)
Words by Edith Cherry, Music by Jean Sibelius
From the album Sibelius: Tone Poems & Symphonies 5-7 (ProArte Records)

Edith Cherry (1872-1897) wrote two volumes of hymns during her short life. Living in Plymouth, England, she was known as being physical frail, but gentle, bright, and winsome in spirit. She wrote "We Rest On Thee" around 1895, basing the title and theme on 2 Chronicles 14:11, in which King Asa cries out to God in the midst of battle, saying, "...help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude" (KJV).

The tune comes from an orchestral work by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), entitled Finlandia. This week's recording is the orchestral piece in its entirety as performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (the hymn tune comes in at 4:48).

"We Rest On Thee" has become associated with the martyrdom of Jim Elliot and his four fellow missionaries in January 1956. The men sang the hymn together before entering the Ecuadorian jungle to bring the Gospel to the Auca Indians. Jim's wife, Elisabeth, wrote an account of Operation Auca, which she entitled, "Through Gates of Splendor," from the fourth verse of the hymn.


Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (iTunes)
Words by Joachim Neander, Music from Erneuerten Gesangbuch
From the album Kingdom Come (Jill Phillips)

Considered the prominent hymn writer of the German Reformed Church, Joachim Neander (1650-1680) wrote around 60 hymns in all, composing tunes for many of them. In 1874, he moved to Düsseldorf to serve as a Latin teacher. During this time, he often visited the Düssel river valley to enjoy God's creation and to write. The area was later named in his honor (Neanderthal, "thal" meaning valley in German), and, incidentally, was the location where the remains of Homo neanderthalensis were found in 1856.  Neander is best known for his beloved hymn, "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty." He crafted the text around verses from Psalms 103 and 150. It was first published in 1680, the same year Neander died at the age of 30 of tuberculosis. English translator Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878) published the text in English in 1863. She is well-known for bringing many of the great German hymns to the English-speaking world, as well as promoting women's rights in England.

The tune, known as Lobe den herren ("Praise to the Lord" in German), was first put into print in 1665. It has appeared in numerous different versions, paired with sacred and secular texts, and is probably based on a folk tune.

This week's recording is by Nashville singer-songwriter Jill Phillips. She toured with Christian artists Caedmon's Call and Bebo Norman before starting her independent career. "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" comes from her fourth album, Kingdom Come, which was first released in 2005.


10,000 Reasons

10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) (iTunes)
Words and Music by Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman
From the album 10,000 Reasons (Live) (sixsteprecords/Sparrow Records)

This week's featured song has become popular in recent years. Written in 2011 by Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman, the song is based on Psalm 103:1-5, calling singers to worship the Lord at all times and remember his holiness, his goodness, and his steadfast love. Jonas Myrin is a Swedish singer/songwriter and worship leader affiliated with Hillsong Church London. He has co-written songs with Christian artists such as Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Chris Tomlin. Matt Redman (b. 1974) is a Christian songwriter and worship leader from England who has been writing and leading worship songs for over 20 years. Together they have created a contemporary worship song that reminds us of the endless reasons we have to bless God's name.



Sola (iTunes)
Words and Music by Zac Hicks
From the album Without Our Aid

This week's featured song was written in 2010 by Zac Hicks, the Pastor of Worship at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  Here are some of his words about "Sola," as shared on his website:

I remember several years ago sitting in Christian Ethics class in seminary, hearing the professor ask the group of forty-plus students, "Can anyone name the five solas of the Reformation." Collectively, as a group, we nailed three and squeezed out a fourth at the end... What are the five solas?

Sola fide - faith alone
Sola gratia - grace alone
Solus Christus - Christ alone
Sola scriptura - Scripture alone
Soli Deo Gloria - To God alone be the glory

...I chose to engage in the Christian practice of art-as-education through writing a song that worshiped God through the five solas of the Reformation... In addition to the five solas, I wanted to convey something else at the beginning of worship that I don't see in a lot of worship songs, namely, that Jesus is our worship leader...


How Great Thou Art

How Great Thou Art (youtube)
Words translated by Stuart K. Hine, Music from Swedish Folk Song
Performed by Bethany Children's Choir from Tanzania

"How Great Thou Art," one of the most beloved hymns of all time, had quite a history to reach the form in which we sing it today. The text is based on a tune written by Swedish poet Carl Gustav Boberg (1859-1940) in 1885. Boberg was inspired to write the poem while walking home from church one day, experiencing a powerful storm, and then listening to the church bells in the calm following the thundershower. Between 1886 and 1890, the poem was published, paired with a Swedish folk tune, and first sung in a church setting.

In the first half of the 20th century, Boberg's poem was translated into several languages, with our current paraphrase written in 1949. Stuart K. Hine (1899-1989), a British Methodist missionary, first encountered the hymn in the Russian translation of the German version while working in Ukraine. In addition to translating several of Boberg's verses, he also wrote new stanzas (our verses 3 and 4).

The video featured this week was the inspiration for the style in which we sing this hymn on Sunday mornings. The song is performed by the children's choir from the Bethany Project, a Christian children's home and education center in Tanzania.


My Heart Is Filled With Thankfulness

My Heart Is Filled With Thankfulness (iTunes)
Words and Music by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend
From the album The Ultimate Collection (Integrity Music)

For this week's featured hymn, I am going to share the story of the song by one of the authors, Keith Getty, as included on gettymusic.com:

"If we examine our personal devotions, or listen in on a prayer meeting, our thanksgiving often focuses on health and position, family and friends, home and belongings, (and all these are right and good -- the bible tells us to give thanks in every situation).

But the prayers of the early church in the New Testament never follow this pattern. The strong emphasis there is on giving thanks to God for spiritual blessings -- the blessings that have true value beyond life on earth.

In "My heart is filled with thankfulness" we give thanks to God for spiritual blessings -- past, present, and future. What Christ has done for us -- for forgiveness and new life, which only he could bring by coming here to earth and suffering for us. How he walks beside us each day and having lived, breathed and walked here on earth, how he promises to be with us whatever our future hold."


He Leadeth Me

He Leadeth Me (iTunes)
Words by Joseph Gilmore, Music by William Bradbury
From the album I'll Fly Away: Country Hymns and Songs of Faith (Sparrow Records)

Joseph Gilmore (1834-1918) was born in Boston and studied at Phillips Academy in Andover, then Brown University and Newton Theological Seminary. Here is what he had to say about the writing of this week's hymn, as shared on songsandhymns.org:

As a young man... I was supplying for a couple of Sundays the pulpit of the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia. At the mid-week service on the 26th of March 1862, I set out to give the people an exposition of the Twenty-third Psalm... but this time I did not get further than the words "He leadeth me." Those words took hold of me as they had never done before, and I saw them in a significance and wondrous beauty of which I had never dreamed...

At the close of the meeting a few of us in the parlor of my host, good Deacon Wattson, kept on talking about the thought which I had emphasized; and then and there, on a blank page of the brief from which I had intended to speak, I penciled the hymn, talking and writing at the same time, then handed it to my wife and thought no more about it. She sent it to "The Watchman and Reflector," a paper published in Boston, where it was first printed. I did not know until 1865 that my hymn had been set to music by William B. Bradbury. I went to Rochester to preach... Going into their chapel on arrival in the city, I picked up a hymnal to see what they were singing, and opened it at my own hymn, "He Leadeth Me."


Come, Christians, Join to Sing

Come, Christians, Join to Sing (iTunes)
Words by Christian H. Bateman, Music from traditional Spanish melody
From the album Simple Hymns (Wider Sky)

Christian Bateman (1813-1889), an English minister, served in the Moravian church, the Congregational church and, later, the Church of England. He wrote this week's hymn as a Sunday School song for children. He originally entitled the text, "Come, Children, Join to Sing." It was first published in 1843 in a volume called Sacred Melodies for Sabbath School and Families. Bateman later changed the title to include all "Christians," as adults benefited from singing the hymn as much as children. The text includes simple language and the repeated phrase, "Alleluia! Amen!", making it easy for singers to learn. The tune usually paired with the text, known as SPANISH MELODY, is also simple and repetitive in nature. Together, text and tune call believers to raise their voices in praise, echoing the opening verses of Psalm 95: "Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!"


All I Have Is Christ

All I Have Is Christ (iTunes)
Words and Music by Jordan Kauflin
From the album The Gathering: Live from Worship God11 (Sovereign Grace Music)

This week's featured song is new to our congregation in Cambridge. It was written in 2008 by Jordan Kauflin, who is now the assistant pastor at Redeemer Church of Arlington (VA). His father, Bob Kauflin, is also a songwriter and one of the leaders of Sovereign Grace Music.

Unlike many of the hymns we sing at CTK, "All I Have Is Christ" is written from the first person point of view. While some contemporary worship songs focus too much on the singer, instead of who God is and what he has done, this song is a personal prayer and meditation on the gospel. The verses tell the universal story of all believers - that we were lost and dead in our sins, rebelling against a holy God, but Jesus suffered in our place so that we might know the fullness of God's salvation and grace. The refrain serves as a joyful burst of praise: "Hallelujah! All I have is Christ! Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!"


Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah

Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah (iTunes)
Words from The Psalter, 1912, Music by Darwin Jordan
From the album By Thy Mercy: Indelible Grace Acoustic (Indelible Grace Music)

The text for "Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah" is a setting of Psalm 146 as printed in The Psalter, 1912.  This volume, published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication, includes all 150 psalms set to music, as well as responsive readings of Scripture passages. Psalters in the vernacular originally sprang up during the 16th century, as the reformers sought to make the Word of God accessible to the common people. These translations of the psalms were usually given metrical settings, meaning the texts were arranged into strophic form (verses) with rhyme and meter. Several of the hymn texts we sing at CTK (ex. "God, Be Merciful to Me," "The Lord's My Shepherd, I'll Not Want," "O Worship the King") are examples of metrical psalms. This tune by Darwin Jordan was originally written in 1982 and recorded on Indelible Grace's album, By Thy Mercy, in 2009.


Ancient of Days

Ancient of Days (iTunes)
Words and Music by Jamie Harvill and Gary Sadler
From the album Rocks Won't Cry (Catapult)

Songwriters Jamie Harvill and Gary Sadler got together in the spring and summer of 1991 to collaborate on new worship songs.  The men and their families (totaling four adults and four children) shared a 2-bedroom rental house in Mobile, AL.  In the midst of the crowded living situation, Harvill and Sadler wrote together, finishing "Ancient of Days" in August of that year.

The title of the song comes from Daniel 7, in which the prophet has a vision of God, the "Ancient of Days," sitting on his throne, judging with wisdom, purity, and power.  He is described several places in Daniel as having a kingdom that "shall never be destroyed" and a dominion that "shall be to the end" (6:26).  Harvill and Sadler also take language from the book of Revelation, particularly chapter 5, where the living creatures and elders and angels come together in worship, saying, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" (v. 12).  Overall, "Ancient of Days" paints a picture of all of creation bowing in worship before a just, mighty, and living God and invites the congregation to join in the song.