"Let the Lower Lights Be Burning"

Philip Bliss, who wrote both the text and tune for this hymn, and his 19th century contemporary, Ira Sankey, are credited with founding the gospel song movement.  Both were part of the Dwight L. Moody evangelistic team, and both sang, led crusade singing, and authored many gospel songs.  Bliss was inspired to write this hymn…

"The Light of the World Is Jesus"

Philip P. Bliss (1838-1876) was one of the five children born to John and Lydia Bliss.  Their log home, typical of the early settlers of northern Pennsylvania, was filled with love and Christian teaching, but formal education was scarce.  Early in life, Philip developed a passion for learning and for music, and took advantage of…

"Great Is Thy Faithfulness"

In 1923, Thomas O. Chisholm (1866-1960) wrote a poem about God’s faithfulness to us,  based on the scripture found in Lamentations 3:22-23. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Thomas Chisholm’s life began in a Kentucky log cabin…

"When Morning Gilds the Skies"

In Psalm 34:1, David proclaims, ” I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” (NIV)  To praise God morning, noon and night, and by everyone, everywhere, is exactly what the author of When Morning Gilds the Skies had in mind.  The original German text of fourteen stanzas first…

"People, Look East"

As a church musician, I’ve heard the complaint that the songs of Advent don’t seem as joyful as Christmas songs.  I’ll agree that some of them can feel a little heavy.  After all, Advent is a time of reflection and preparation, and reflections and preparations don’t always come easily or lightly.  Then along comes People,…

"Comfort, Comfort Ye My People"

The hymn, Comfort, Comfort Ye My People, has been around for hundreds of years, but it may not be as familiar as some hymns of the same age.  Why?  Maybe because we only sing it once a year, during Advent.  Maybe because some congregations do not observe Advent.  Maybe, sadly, because some congregations no longer sing hymns. French…

"We Gather Together"

Think of the main dish on the menu for Thanksgiving.  You probably thought of turkey.  Think of a hymn about Thanksgiving.  You probably thought of We Gather Together.  Did you know that the words “thanks” and “thanksgiving” do not appear in the hymn?  Although it is a song of praise for the blessings God gives, it…

"For All the Saints"

Some churches celebrate the Feast of All Saints on November 1.  Others set aside the first Sunday in November as All Saints Sunday.  As predictable as singing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve, those congregations will be singing “For All The Saints” sometime in early November.  The day is set aside to honor departed saints, whether known or unknown.   This…

"Shall We Gather At the River"

Multi-talented Roberty Lowry (1826-1899) was a professor of literature, a Baptist, and a music editor at Biglow Publishing Company. Lowry once said, “I would rather preach a gospel sermon to an appreciative, receptive congregation than write a hymn,” yet he wrote nearly 500 hymns and gospel songs, including “Shall We Gather At the River,” “I…

"Work, for the Night Is Coming"

The text for “Work, for the Night Is Coming” was written in 1854 by 18 year old Anna Walker Coghill (1836-1907) and published in a Canadian newspaper.   Ten years later, it first appeared in a hymnal paired with a tune by Lowell Mason (1792-1872) and has since appeared in over 1000 hymnals. The clear and persistent ‘call to action’ of this song is…

"O Love That Will Not Let Me Go"

A personal favorite of mine, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go was written by pastor and scholar George Matheson, D.D. (1842-1906).  Matheson wrote, “My hymn was com­posed in the manse of In­ne­lan [Ar­gyle­shire, Scot­land] on the ev­en­ing of the 6th of June, 1882, when I was 40 years of age. I was alone…

"Be Thou My Vision"

It took almost 1,500 years for the hymn Be Thou My Vision to come together as we know it today.  Irish poet, scholar of Latin scripture and Christian saint Dallán Forgaill (ca. 530–598) is believed to be the author of early Irish poem “Rop tú mo baile,” the basis of the modern English hymn Be Thou My…