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Every Lord’s Day at our church, we have the privilege of gathering for congregational worship in the morning and in the evening, with two morning services that are identical and one evening service in which there is a different liturgy, with different hymns and a different sermon. So, on most Sundays, those of us who gather for morning and evening worship are singing six to seven different hymns and psalms, not to mention the hymns that we hear from our wonderful choirs.

While we sing mostly older hymns from centuries past, we also sing newer hymns from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. From time to time, I make a comment about one of the hymns we have sung in order to draw the attention of the congregation to a particular phrase, especially when it pertains to the text of Scripture I am preaching on during that service. However, what most of our congregation doesn’t know is that after each hymn we sing, I want to comment on every line and every verse in every hymn. I have to hold myself back from analyzing the theology of each hymn and to resist spending the rest of the service explaining what is theologically good, bad, and ugly in the hymns we have sung. (Of course, there is never anything theologically bad or ugly when we sing a psalm from sacred Scripture.)

Sometimes—well, I have to admit that it is often the case—I become internally upset at some of the poor theology that exists in so many of the church’s historic hymns, not to mention some of the newer hymns. I recall making a comment several years ago during the Christmas season about the hymn “Away in a Manger” and the line “But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes,” explaining how unlikely it was that Jesus didn’t cry as a newborn and the significance of the human nature of Jesus Christ and His suffering. Nevertheless, it is more often the case that I am moved to internal joy that sometimes causes me to shed tears of gratefulness to our Lord when I reflect on some of the rich and glorious biblical theology that is found in the church’s greatest historic hymns.

As we reflect on the theology of Christmas and the Advent season, reflecting on the first advent (coming) of Christ and eagerly anticipating His second advent, we do well to think deeply on all the good biblical theology in our hymns as we worship coram Deo, before the face of God, and as we look forward to worshiping our Lord and Savior face-to-face one day.

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From the December 2021 Issue
Dec 2021 Issue