My mini-collection of hymnals includes books published in 1909 and 1910. Other newer books are church hymnals and hymn arrangements for the piano. I also have a couple of sambika, Japanese hymn books.
We sometimes played "Name That Tune" in Japan. A combination of a sword drill and the popular old TV show, someone would play a few notes of a song on the piano and, in small groups, we would try to determine the name of the song and be the first group to identify it. My team always won. I would recognize the song, dash to the index of my sambika to find it in English, then turn to the page so one of my Japanese friends could call out the title in Japanese.
I don't tell these stories to show off. It's just evidence of my love and appreciation of hymns. But my familiarity with these grand songs is not the only reason I love them and share them here.
Hymns are the story of God and his grace. They are the theology of the church. From Miriam's song after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea to the songs of the redeemed in Revelation, music is integral to scripture and the life of God's people. Not unlike scripture itself, hymns can remind us of the depth of God's mercy, his power and holiness, his love for all people, and his arm outstretched to deliver us from peril. They help us identify with other believers, both those who composed the hymns and those who sing them with us. Many of the songs in our hymnals are hundreds of years old; they have stood the test of time.
There are many wonderful contemporary songs that we sing in church today. I could hardly keep from dancing yesterday while we sang the Newsboys song, He Reigns, which talks about the song of praise to God that our brothers and sisters around the world sing. Many other contemporary songs and musicians proclaim truth in powerful ways. Yet I am saddened that our younger generations are missing out on the hymns. We incorporate hymns in most of our services, at least at our church we do, but these are so few compared to the hundreds that we don't sing.
My Hymn of the Month posts this year will include some of those hymns that I grew up on, some that I don't want to see fade from the church. Grab a hymnal and join me as we celebrate the mighty hymns of the church and the God to whom we sing them!