“There Is a Manger” – A Song for Advent

For Advent this year, I wrote these lyrics to “There Is a Manger,” which should be sung to the tune of “There Is a Fountain.” The five verses of “There Is a Manger” take you from the manger to the empty tomb, stopping at a hillside and a mother and a dragon along the way.

“There Is a Manger”
October 11, 2018

Verse 1
There is a manger
Filled with hope:
The promised Savior came,
The Holy One, God’s only Son,
And Jesus is His Name.
And Jesus is His Name,
And Jesus is His Name,
The Holy One, God’s only Son,
And Jesus is His Name!

Verse 2
There is a hillside
Filled with song,
As shepherds watched their sheep,
For angels sang, “Glory to God,
And on the earth be peace!”
“And on the earth be peace!”
“And on the earth be peace!
For angels sang, “Glory to God,
And on the earth be peace!”

Verse 3
There is a mother
Filled with love,
Her baby wrapped and warm.
His tiny feet would tread the waves,
His hands would still the storm.
His hands would still the storm,
His hands would still the storm,
His tiny feet would tread the waves,
His hands would still the storm!

Verse 4
There is a dragon
Filled with rage,
Who knew that God had said,
“One day a son of Eve would come
To crush the serpent’s head.”
“To crush the serpent’s head,”
“To crush the serpent’s head,”
“One day a son of Eve would come
To crush the serpent’s head!”

Verse 5
There is a promise
Filled with blood,
His life for us he gave.
He drank the cup and bore the curse,
Then rose up from the grave!
Then rose up from the grave,
Then rose up from the grave,
He drank the cup and bore the curse,
Then rose up from the grave!

“Come, Thou Word” – A Christmas Hymn

The following lyrics of “Come, Thou Word” were composed to the tune of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

“Come, Thou Word”
December 20-21, 2016

Verse 1
Come, Thou Word, which with the Father
and the Spirit ever dwelled
And hath taken flesh to save us
from our sin and death and hell.
We behold Thee in Thy manger,
Fully God and fully man,
Myst’ry of the ages former,
Now revealed in Bethlehem.

Verse 2
Come, Thou King, whose birth the angel
Sang to shepherds in the night.
‘Round them came a host of heaven,
‘Round them shone a holy light.
“See I bring good news of great joy,
So no longer be afraid:
Christ the Lord, the promised Savior,
Unto you is born this day.”

Verse 3
Come, Thou Son, whose arms shall carry
Those fast-bound in chains of sin.
‘Mid this exile, ruined sinners
Shall be raised to life again.
He was born for our redemption,
O’er the manger loomed the Tree.
There in David’s little city
Lay the one who set us free.

The Hymn Jesus Sang After the Last Supper

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:30)

What hymn? The last supper had just ended, and Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn, though the narrator doesn’t specify which psalm(s). A Passover meal included the singing of the Hallel, which were Psalms 113-118. According to Passover tradition, participants sang Psalms 113-114 earlier in the meal, and they sang Psalms 115-118 after the meal ended.

Back to my question: what hymn did Jesus and his disciples sing after the Passover meal ended? Psalms 115-118, from memory no doubt. Soon Jesus would be praying in the garden of Gethsemane and then arrested, so the timing of these psalms is powerful when we consider their content.

  • Jesus would’ve sung Psalm 115:9-11, “O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.”
  • Jesus would’ve sung Psalm 116:3-4, “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the LORD: ‘O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!'”
  • Jesus would’ve sung Psalm 118:5-7, “Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The LORD is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.”
  • Jesus would’ve sung Psalm 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.”
  • And on that Thursday night, when Jesus prayed in a garden with a heart full of sorrow before one of the Twelve came to betray him, he first would’ve sung the words of Psalm 118:24, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

My Favorite Lines from My Favorite Hymns

I grew up on hymns and can’t get enough of their rich theology.  Sometimes a phrase is so finely crafted that its meaning and emotional effect has stayed with me for years.  Here are some of my favorite verses:

“How Great Thou Art”
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim: my God, how great Thou art!

“O Worship the King”
Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail.
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end;
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!

“This Is My Father’s World”
This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world, the battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heav’n be one.

“Holy, Holy Holy”
Holy, holy, holy!  Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love and purity.

“Be Thou My Vision”
Riches I heed not, or man’s empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.

“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wand’ring from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.

“The Love of God”
Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made,
Were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill and ev’ry man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, tho’ stretched from sky to sky.

“There Is a Fountain”
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.
Wash all my sins away, wash all my sins away;
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.

“I Stand Amazed in the Presence”
When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
‘Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.

“Hallelujah, What a Savior!”
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood,
Sealed my pardon with His blood;
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

“Jesus Paid It All”
And when, before the throne,
I stand in Him complete,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
My lips shall still repeat.

“And Can It Be”
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fastbound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

“It Is Well”
My sin–oh, the bliss of this glorious thought:
My sin–not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

“Before the Throne of God Above”
When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died my sinful soul is counted free;
For God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.

“How Firm a Foundation”
Fear not!  I am with thee; O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

“Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me”
Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.

“The Solid Rock”
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Do you have some favorite hymn lines?  Share them in the comments!  

10 Principles for Church Singing, by Kevin DeYoung

On Kevin DeYoung’s excellent blog–which I hope you’ll visit often–he has listed 10 principles for church singing, in 2 separate posts.

Principles 1-5 are here.
Principles 6-10 are here.

And here they are, all together, but you still need to read his explanation of each:
(1) Love is indispensable to church singing that pleases God
(2) Our singing is for God’s glory and the edification of the body of Christ
(3) We ought to sing to the Lord new songs
(4) Church singing should swim in its own history of church singing
(5) Sing the Psalms
(6) We should strive for excellence in the musicality and the poetry of the songs we sing
(7) The main sound to be heard in the worship music is the sound of the congregation singing
(8) The congregation should also be stretched from time to time to learn new songs and broaden its musical horizons
(9) The texts of our songs should be matched with fitting musicality and instrumentation
(10) All of our songs should employ manifestly biblical lyrics