WELS Hymnal Project

Project Blog

Insights, analysis, techniques, opinions, and experiences from the team behind the WELS Hymnal Project.

Silhouetted on a frightening sky, unmanned ropes whip wildly from each of the lost ship’s masts. Helplessly they wrap and unwrap themselves; they tangle and untangle through the night without help. The sails have long been shredded. The timbre of her timbers hammer horror through the hull. Massive crests mount up and climb each side, dwarfing the very ship that once boasted of her might at the harbor. With unsteady surprise, the wind and waves play catch with her, threatening at any moment to cast her aside like an unwanted old toy.

It’s the perfect scene to teach fear - to describe the pounding drum of our worries, the anxious sweat from unfamiliar circumstances, the movable moments of our lives that perplex us when we beg life to just stay the same, the painful memory of our sins.

But it’s an even better scene to teach faith. “When ev’ry earthly prop gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.”

Inside the ship’s belly, the crew communes with unshakable confidence. There are no hopeless huddles here, only relaxed songs and joyous laughter as they rehearse their immovable state: “On Christ, the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” Each scream of the storm is met with the peaceful silence in their souls. Every violent quake is answered with unstirred calm because of the Lord. Let the storm rage and flood. Let the gale be high and stormy. Neither sinful conditions nor weather conditions determine confidence in this boat, Christ does.

Dear Christian friends, keep singing this audacious anthem of faith that shines on the darkness, stills the storm of our sins, and ties up every troubled thought. Each verse of this hymn is carried by a tune that rises and falls, yet growing ever higher like surging waves that prepare to overwhelm us. But God has given us repose. In the midst of hopeless destruction, he fills faith’s eyes with his Son. Our answer is Jesus: his blood and righteousness, that is, his active and passive obedience to God the Father for us. The answer is sworn by God and made secure by faith, as the hymn-writer sweeps us to safety in the sentences of Hebrews 6-9 and shouts with us: “his oath, his covenant and blood...” Your answer is anchored in heaven. The refrain returns us to the security of the solid Rock, no matter the storm that surrounds us.

Let us then fix our eyes on Jesus and be the merry crew that worships in the nave!1


  1. The nave is the main area of a sanctuary where the congregation sits and worships. It comes from the Latin navis, meaning ship. ↩︎

 

Thank you to all those who took the time to share their thoughts on, "Abide with Me." We hope you enjoy hearing a recording of this hymn and seeing some of the comments that we received.

Next week we'll feature another hymn from the list of Fifty Favorite Hymns: "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less" (Christian Worship #382).

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!

When has God helped you? When has he carried you because you couldn’t do it yourself? Through what trial in your life has God brought you? “Abide with Me” is a favorite hymn because of its comforting message that God is with us. This comforting message has perhaps been used at the funeral of a loved one. The text very clearly and reassuringly reminds us that our Lord is with us at all times, even until and beyond earthly death. Each of the verses serves as a petition. Each describes times when we ask God to abide with us:

  1. When we need help; the way is dark...Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.
  2. When joy is gone...Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day.
  3. When we seek comfort and forgiveness...Come not in terrors, as the King of kings.
  4. When we were young and foolish...Thou on my head in early youth didst smile.
  5. When we were tempted....I need thy presence every passing hour.

Yes, at all these times and many more, dear God, abide with us.

Yet, when verse six arrives, there is reason to sing just a bit more boldly. Read the third line: “Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?” Do you punch those words of the verse a bit more forcefully when you sing with the congregation? Do you think of the triumphant words of 1 Corinthians 15? Do you think about Jesus’ victory on the cross? Sing the text more loudly. Sing the melody more confidently. Be bold; sing the tenor line harmony that rises and hits its high point just when the text rebukes the sting of death and the grave. Sing because Jesus has triumphed and we have too.

I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still if thou abide with me.

The final line of the final stanza of the hymn summarizes the previous six and points toward heaven. “In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!” When you sing these final words, how do you sing them? Do you sing the commas, allowing the text to take center stage? Do you emphasize each of those brief phrases? Do you put space between the notes, reminding yourself and others that your God has never left you in life and he will not leave you in death? “In life. In death. O Lord. Abide with me!” That is our petition, and that is his promise.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!

Jonathan Niemi
Communications Committee

Words and Music: Keith Getty and Stuart Townend © 2002 Thankyou Music, admin. worldwide at CapitolCMGPublishing.com (excl. Europe admin. by Kingswaysongs); used by permission.

 

Thank you to all those who took the time to share their thoughts on, "In Christ Alone." We hope you enjoy hearing a recording of this hymn and seeing some of the comments that we received.

Next week we'll feature another hymn from the list of Fifty Favorite Hymns: "Abide with Me" (Christian Worship #588).

We love our options—for better or worse. Whether you go to the grocery store or shop online there are so many choices to pick from that it can be dizzying. This flows over into our spiritual life today. Throughout the world there are so many choices… what should I believe? Whom should I believe? There are so many options, but only one truth will fulfill… Christ. Christ alone. Not a little bit of Christ and a mixture of every other man-made religion. Not a little bit of Christ and a mixture of the best I have done and the worst I have left undone, but Christ—all Christ and nothing else.

The Keith Getty and Stuart Townend hymn, “In Christ Alone,” (lyrics and audio available here) echoes that scriptural clarity. It cuts through the fog of choices clamoring for our attention and shines the spotlight on Christ. At the end of the day, after all the things we try to put our hope in have failed us, after all the things we turn to for strength let us down, Christ alone remains reliable and faithful. His love reaches higher than my towering sins. He alone gives me peace with God when I am in the depths of despair. His love, his death, his blood, his power are what save and sustain a Christian throughout this life and into eternity.

(See the lyrics for stanza 1 of the hymn)

There are so many opinions of who Christ is, too. The world scoffs at the idea that he was anything more than a great teacher. The world puts him on par with Gandhi, Mohammed, or any other prophet… someone who just happened to get a lot of enduring press. But this hymn begs to differ. He was and is different: True man and true God and, therefore, the only one who could succeed in giving sinners God’s righteousness in exchange for our sin. Because of his death, we stand before God, “not guilty.”

(See the lyrics for stanza 2 of the hymn)

So many things seem too good to be true. There are so many options. How can I be sure about Christ? What made his death more powerful than the martyrdom of any other man in this world? What made him different? This is the pinnacle of the hymn. You can hear it in the way people sing this stanza. It’s not unusual for the volume to increase on this stanza, whether it’s written that way in a particular arrangement or being sung a cappella… that’s because the faith it describes makes the hearts of the Christians who sing it soar. He’s alive! He rose! He made my redemption iron clad! Now because of his victory over the grave, I no longer need to be afraid of death or hell.

(See the lyrics for stanza 3 of the hymn)

What are the practical implications of this confession of faith in Christ alone? The final stanza beautifully sums up the impact this confession of faith has on our daily lives and our eternity. Satan’s accusations are silenced, death is now a passage to eternal life, Christ has promised to be faithful to us all of our days. No matter what might happen to us in this life, no matter what trials or hardships come to us for trusting in his promises, our hearts wait with a peace and confidence in our Savior’s return.

(See the lyrics for stanza 4 of the hymn)