This week I start a series looking at all thirty of these amazing hymns and songs. I am doing it alphabetically to be fair to all the songs. I hope you are both inspired by these words and learn a little about my own denomination's rich musical heritage.
Angels from the Realms of Glory- James Montgomery (1816)
James Montgomery was the son of a Moravian minister from Scotland. Author of over 400 hymns, about a quarter of which are still in use, he is often considered along with Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley among the great British hymn writers. This Christmas hymn is a poetic vision of the birth of Jesus. Angels, shepherds, Wise Men, saints, sinners, and finally we, ourselves, coming to the birth of the Savior.
Angels from the realms of glory...
Great Hymns of the Church
Amazing Grace- John Newton (1779)
Yes, it may have become so common that it seems schmaltzy. But it is a truly personal hymn, as so many of the great ones are. These are the words of a former slave-ship captain turned minister. He was converted to faith in the midst of a storm, was eventually ordained and become a strong voice for the abolition of slavery. He realized there was something wrong about what he had done and changed course. The amazement at God's grace is at the heart of the song.
I once was lost, but now I'm foundIt is just as powerful and spiritual in its instrumental versions. Yes, they can get to be syrupy sweet, but we can often hear the grace whether it is a country, jazz, orchestral, or choral arrangement.
Here is one of my all-time favorite versions by flutist Hubert Laws:
Gospel-type Hymns and Songs
Abide With Me- Henry Lyte (1847)
Clearly a song about approaching death, which is, in fact, its source. According to Wikipedia, Scottish Anglican Henry Lyte composed the poem and set it to music while he was dying of tuberculosis. He only lived another three weeks. Again, as with Amazing Grace, the power of the personal becomes universal. He ends the first verse and moves on:
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,