Author: Scott Connell

O Come All Ye Faithful

“O Come All Ye Faithful” is one of the oldest hymns we sing at Christmas. It was initially a Latin Hymn bearing the title “Adeste Fideles” and appears to have been written by John Francis Wade (c. 1711–1786). The first existing manuscript of this hymn is dated 1743. The Latin title literally means “Come, faithful ones.” This Catholic hymn was translated into English in 1841 for use in the Church of England by Frederick Oakeley (1802–1890). The Oxford Movement was an effort in the mid-19th century to translate older Catholic hymns from Latin into English for use in Protestant churches. This literary movement was primarily based at Oxford University and was an effort to recapture older hymns from the high church tradition. It is like those today who want to bring back the more formal...

Continue reading

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Many of the most profound hymns of the faith were birthed from life’s most challenging circumstances. “It is Well with My Soul” was written in the throes of the sudden and tragic death of all the author’s children. “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” was written upon the death of a spouse. “Just as I Am” was written by a bedridden invalid, and “To God Be the Glory” by a blind poet. Trials are the wellspring of profound proclamations of hope. Christmas of 1849 saw the nation stumbling out of the recently ended Mexican-American War and marching toward an inevitable Civil War with increasing strife between the North and South. Europe also was experiencing an ongoing revolution and political unrest. The thoughts of “Peace on Earth” were far from the reality of most inhabitants of the mid-19th century...

Continue reading

Away in a Manger

The story of this delightful children’s carol is a tangled web of attributions and additions. This is, unfortunately, common for hymn stories. They can become larger than life. This story even includes a couple of magnificent lies in its history, seemingly intended to build notoriety for the song. Despite the folklore associated with this song, it has become one of the most recognizable Christmas carols for more than a century. While no fewer than four names have become associated with its composition, no one knows who actually wrote the words. This anonymous hymn was believed to have been written in 1883, apparently in recognition of the 400th anniversary of Martin Luther’s birth (1483–1546). It first appeared in a newspaper in Boston, MA, under the title “Luther’s Cradle Song.” It included...

Continue reading

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

One of the first Christmas hymns that Charles Wesley wrote happens to be one of the greatest Christmas Carols of all time. How is that for beginner’s luck? In fact, many consider it one of the greatest hymns ever written (for any season). This is a remarkable feat, given that Wesley went on to compose over 6,500 hymns. He originally called it a “Hymn for Christmas Day.” He first wrote it in 1739 when he was 32 years old. It has since become one of the most beloved Christmas carols of Christendom, including us. Baptists have been singing this Methodist hymn for almost 175 years! The original first line was “Hark, how all the welkin rings, Glory to the King of kings.” Most people today don’t know what “the welkin” is, and you may have already looked that word up while reading that last sentence....

Continue reading

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Now that the Advent Season is upon us, it is our challenge to slow the pace of our lives enough to acknowledge it and then enjoy it. However, the busyness of our ordinary lives abruptly resumes following the Thanksgiving holiday, and a new but familiar tyranny descends upon us with the approach of December. The calendar fills quickly with celebrative events, and the task list explodes. It is the most wonderful time of the year… but will we take the time required to enjoy it? Singing Christmas carols is a wonderful way to pause and reflect. During a much simpler time, at least from our perspective, Charles Wesley, one of the most prolific hymn writers in history, wrote special Christmas hymns for the church to sing during this special season. Wesley loved celebrating Christmas, and singing...

Continue reading

The Amazing Grace of Friendship

January 1, 1773 is a momentous date for hymnody. It not only serves as the date that ‘Amazing Grace’ was first presented to the public by John Newton now almost 250 years ago, but it is also the date that William Cowper penned ‘Conflict: Light Shining Out of Darkness,’ based on John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” We know the hymn today as ‘God Moves in a Mysterious Way.’ It is hard to imagine a more fruitful single day in English hymnody nor a starker juxtaposition of two texts depicting the nature of the friendship that these compositions represent—grace and darkness. January 1773 was a difficult month for Cowper, a man often plagued by lengthy periods of depression and even moments of insanity. By the winter of 1773, Cowper and Newton had...

Continue reading

Praying Without Ceasing

Most Christians know that 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says that we are supposed to “pray without ceasing.” But how are we supposed to start a prayer that never ends? Don’t we have to live life in a way that requires us to say “amen,” then get up and go do the stuff we have been praying about? Recently I have begun to think more seriously about what it means to lead a life of ceaseless prayer. While I believe some aspects of this kind of life will always be “under construction,” I also have begun to delight in how this pursuit can change everything about how we live—in the most beautiful ways! I remember as a child watching the old Batman series with Adam West. Commissioner Gordon had this special hotline to Batman on a pedestal under a glass cover in his office. It was called the Batphone, and...

Continue reading

Knowing God More!

We used to sing the following words of a worship song written by Steve Green many years ago: Oh, I want to know you more Deep within my soul, I want to know you Oh, I want to know you… During the heyday of the worship renewal movement, words like this seemed fresh and intimate when they arrived on the scene. They described a deep desire that lay beneath the surface of one’s life. But for those paying close attention, this type of language demonstrated a depth of desire that could easily be neglected, if not a complete lie. It is discouraging to be capable of singing such wonderful sentiments with our mouths that are not true of our heart’s actual desire. The Bible indicates there are two types of knowledge of God. There is a head knowledge (James 2:19 – even the demons believe the facts)...

Continue reading