“Happy soul; begin and end your day with music.” Lailah Gifty Akita
If you’re just joining us, our current blog series is covering the thirty great hymns of the Christian Faith. And while so many lists like this are so very subjective, our list of top hymns from which we are working, comes from an extensive study of the major Protestant hymnals dating from the present day back to the late 1800’s. Author Robert T. Coote, in 2011, published an article in Christianity Today entitled, The Hymns That Keep on Going: The 27 Worship Songs That Have Made The Hymnal Cut Time And Again.
Today, as we work our way through Coote’s alphabetical listing, we now come to the first of what will be four hymns written by Charles Wesley. Amazing, isn’t it…that nearly 15% of the most popular hymns sung again and again by Protestant congregations over the last 200 years, belong to the pen of one man. Only the prolific hymn writer, Isaac Watts, comes close to Wesley’s achievement, placing three of his hymns in Coote’s top twenty-seven!
Charles Wesley, as you most likely know, was the brother and co-worker of John Wesley, the founding father of the Wesleyan movement, which birthed the Methodist church in the 1700’s. Today’s hymn, Christ The Lord Is Risen Today, was penned by Charles, the younger Wesley, for use in the very first Easter worship service held in the Foundry Meeting House, an abandoned arms foundry, sitting atop Windmill Hill, north of Finsbury Fields in London. The building, known for casting brass guns and mortars for the Royal Ordinance of King Charles, sat quiet for twenty-three years after it was closed in 1716. But in 1739, as the numbers of men and women responding to the Wesley’s outdoor preaching were growing dramatically, the brothers decided to move their revival inside for the winter, gathering those together who were being so dramatically touched by God’s Spirit.
The original version of this popular hymn, Hymn for Easter Day, was first published in 1739 by the Wesleys in a collection called Hymns and Sacred Poems, and the song had eleven four-line stanzas! Today, most hymnals publish only four stanzas, but in order to get a fuller flavor of Wesley’s celebrative tone, here’s six stanzas as found in some of the earlier Methodist hymnals:
Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids Him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!
King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!
Interestingly enough, Wesley’s original text did not include the very familiar Alleluia! that ends each line of this well-known hymn. This celebratory word of praise was added by a music editor, presumed to be John Arnold, in his published collection of hymns, Compleat Psalmodist (1749) when aligning Wesley’s powerful text with a popular tune of the day, Easter Hymn, which was first published anonymously in a hymn collection in 1708. So now, for nearly 200 years, worshippers around the world raise their voices in song using Charles Wesley’s Hymn for Easter Day to join with the early church, whose familiar greeting on Resurrection Sunday was the memorable expression, “He is Risen…He is Risen Indeed!”
My prayer: Jesus, without a doubt, it’s Your resurrection that is the game-changer in this life and the life to come. Indeed, You, the Risen Christ, are the reason for our joyous celebration. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: When was the last time I took a long, loving look at the amazing significance of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth? How does His conquering of death, once and for all, change things and how should that reality be reflected in the way I live today?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together 30 Great Hymns of Faith?
Between now and Easter 2016, we will be sharing with you this blog series we call Thirty Great Hymns of Faith. In order to keep all 34 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Thirty Great Hymns of Faith home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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