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Hallelujah! To Praise God Only

 
There is a possibility that the word “Hallelujah” is among the most overused and misused word that we ever got from the Judeo-Christian Bible. We’ll study aspects of that word in this article, and find out how big a mistake we are making by how we use it. I’ll be interested to know your thoughts when we’ve finished our journey.

“Hallelujah” is a word of Hebrew origin, and is found 28 times in the Bible, in only two books: 24 times in Psalms 104-150 (well, actually 23 times plus one variation of the word) and 4 times in Revelation (confined to chapter 19, in which the residents of heaven sing and shout praises to the King of Kings).

It is a compound word, comprising the root “halal” (meaning, in this context, to give or sing praise) and “Yah” (the shortened version of Yhvh, or Yahweh or Yehova, the name of God).

If you go to the book of Psalms, looking to find the word “Hallelujah” there, your success will depend on which English translation you use. While the HCSB consistently translates it “Hallelujah,” in most other versions you will find it rendered “praise the Lord,” once in a while “praise Yah,” or (in the KJV) “praise ye the Lord.” However, just about all translations revert to the actual word “Hallelujah” when it appears in the book of Revelation.

Hallelujah in Hebrew and Greek

The word “Hallelujah” in Hebrew (above, as used in the Psalms) and Greek (below, as used in Revelation).

 
Sports, Steaks, and Songs.
Perhaps because the true meaning of the word is not universally known (or we’ve forgotten it), let me suggest that we tend to throw it around far more often than we should. It does contain the name of God, after all, and the Third Commandment in Exodus 20:7 clearly tells us how God feels about our misusing His name or using it “in vain” or in a profane way. Yes, we sometimes rightly and joyfully use it in praise of our Creator (for example, Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus is replete with it). But then there are times we’ll shout it when our sports team scores in a closely contested game, or when (after several failed attempts) the restaurant finally serves our steak cooked exactly right. (I’m not pointing fingers. I fear I’ve been known to throw the “H” word around too loosely at times myself.)

Pop songs which are seasoned with liberal sprinklings of the “H” word (and which also contain quite dubious lyrics for Christians) are often very fashionable. A couple of them come immediately to mind. Leonard Cohen’s song of that name (“Maybe there’s a God above, but all I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot at somebody who outdrew you”) and George Harrison’s doctrinally indefensible hit (“My sweet lord, Hallelujah. My my lord, Hallelujah. Mmmmm My lord, Hare Krishna. My my my Lord, Hare Krishna”).

Because of how it is used throughout the book of Psalms, we know that “Yah” is a name of God. So here’s a question to ponder: Imagine if we were actually in the presence of God the Creator, and we found ourselves in a situation (our team scoring, the perfectly cooked steak, etc.) where we might automatically shout the “H” word. Now that we’ve remembered that it contains the name of God, and we’ve re-read the Third Commandment, would we still be as willing to use that word so loosely in His presence? Well, aren’t we always in the presence of our God? Doesn’t it follow, then, that we should reserve the use of His name in the word “Hallelujah” only in instances of sincere praise of Him, to Whom it is directed?

Maybe if we went back and read all 28 occurrences of “Hallelujah” in Scripture, we would see in what types of situations and for what reasons it was written for us, under inspiration from God, by the Psalmist(s) and John. It can be a very teachable moment, I have found.

With that in mind, I have copied out all 28 “Hallelujah” verses for you at the bottom of this article. As we read through them, we should try to coach ourselves to say or think “Praise God!” or “Praise Yahweh!” (or Yehovah) every time and in each context that we see the word “Hallelujah.” If we do that enough times, we will begin to see it for what it is — an exclamation of praise specifically for and directly to God — and not just another thing to yell out of habit when we are excited about other, less important things.

Alleluja

Misuse? In Vain?
And I think this might be a key to understanding why God gave us the Third Commandment in the first place. Stay with me, and let’s think this through. Both Jesus (Sermon on the Mount) and Paul (1 Corinthians 9) gave us specific and highly enlightening instructions on how we should understand each of the Laws and the Commandments of the Bible. Both used examples to show that a rote, limited, methodical, literal (therefore “fleshly” or physical) response will only take us so far.

Paul cited a law given in Deuteronomy 25:4 to make a point. It says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain.” Jesus gave several examples, which took this form: “You have heard it said, Do not murder… But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Those who believe that the exact, strict letter of the Law is all that is required of us might easily try to duck out of responsibility by arguing, “Well, I’ve never murdered anyone, and besides, I don’t own an ox!”

What Jesus and Paul have taught us is that for every rule, commandment, or law that God has given to us, there is a wider, more all-encompassing, elevating, and moral (therefore “spiritual”) plane to which we are expected to take every one of them. Paul said, “Is God really concerned with oxen? Or isn’t He really saying it for us? Yes, this is written for us.” Jesus was certainly not saying He was going to “do away” with the commandment against murder. Quite the contrary, He elevated it to the level of human feelings, emotions, character, and the spirit. If we are angry without cause, we will be judged as having broken that same law.

It’s a matter of developing character and conscience, it seems, that the Law and Commandments were given to us in the first place. The development of that Christ-like character, to which we all should aspire, starts at the lowest level. When basketball icon Michael Jordan was in junior high school, would anyone have expected him to perfect his “gravity-defying 360-degree lean-in dunk” at that age? Of course not. We start where we are, and we build. Starting with a law forbidding murder or mistreating livestock is part of that. If we recognize that refraining from murder and from muzzling the ox are behaviors that will make us better people, then obeying those laws will build our character — but only to a certain basic degree. If we stop there, we will be able to live well, but at that level only. We probably won’t become a mass murderer, but we could easily become a misanthrope around whom nobody wants to be.

But if we ponder each commandment and ask, “What am I actually meant to learn from this? And how else can I apply it to other aspects of my life?” then we give ourselves the opportunity to increase the level of Christ-like character we build and live by every day.

Commandments Lead to Character.
So let’s end by thinking for a moment about how the Third commandment fits into this character-development idea. God told us plainly and for all eternity (after all, He also told us, “I am Yahweh, I do not change!”) that He considers it a serious offense if we misuse His name. Why? Is He so vain that He cannot bear any ridicule or satire or lightness made of His name? No. I think we can safely say that vanity is not in the character of the God of the Bible. So why is it not only a law, but one of the Ten Commandments? There’s far more at stake here than salving the feelings of some petulant deity.

What happens if, at first, we very carefully and meticulously avoid saying God’s name (in any form) in any sort of “vain,” light, off-handed, satirical, derogatory, or unsavory manner? No cursing using God’s name, no expletives using Jesus’s name, etc. After a while, what began as merely a rote obeying of the commandment becomes a part of our character. Yes, we started obeying the commandment because God was the One Who commanded it. But eventually, we move from “God said it so I will do it” to the burgeoning of respect for God’s name — and therefore increasing our reverence of God Himself. We are coming to know (and to live as if we know) more about Him and to honor the greatness, holiness, majesty, righteousness, and power of the Creator of the Universe.

This action causes us to “set apart” God’s name from misuse. And what does the Bible call setting something apart for God’s use? It’s called “holiness.” Over time, the strength of our character grows so that more and more of our inward parts, our demeanor, our thoughts, our actions, everything becomes more and more attuned to God as the object of our worship. He is holy because He is God. To us, He becomes holy because we have obeyed, and that part of our character has become more and more Christ-like. In other words, we have increasingly set God apart as the most important Object in our lives, the One we know is to be worshipped.

So, I think there is a real lesson to be learned and growth into Christ-like character to be achieved here. What if we, in fact, take a relatively small issue like the word “Hallelujah” that contains the name of God, and “set it apart” for use only for the praise of that God? And what if, as we do that, we do not do it in a grousing and rebellious manner, resentful that somehow we are being “forced” to do these things.

Rather, we should follow Christ’s (and Paul’s) principle of looking for the higher-level spiritual ways to keep each law or commandment and the lessons to be learned from each. The more we do that, the more other acts and forms of worship and holiness will almost certainly begin to develop. Even if at first we must force ourselves not to muzzle our oxen as they tread out grain, if we are open to it and looking for it, we will begin to discover that we are doing a good thing for that ox. We are being generous, giving, yes even loving to this creature. As that becomes more and more a part of our character, that attitude can spread from each of us to the people around us, our family, our neighbors, our employees (which was what Paul was talking about), our leaders, and (gasp!) even our enemies.

We begin all of this with the premise that there is a Creator of the Universe and a designer of the entirety of this thing we call a “human being.” It seems quite likely that this Creator could easily have predicted that, if we as humans want to be or do something, we can work our way toward that by imitating the actions of someone who already is or does that thing. Going through and discovering the hidden psychological and spiritual gems (and gifts) that can be found inside every one of the Laws and Commandments (which are the building blocks of the Christ-like character we seek) is beyond the scope of this article. But everything starts with keeping each law or commandment, and working our way upward and outward from there. Maybe a place to start is the Third Commandment and the misuse of “Hallelujah.” What do you think?


 
FINAL NOTE: You can click the video below and listen to what is most likely the best known musical setting of the word “Hallelujah” (and certainly among the most Biblically based ever) — the “Hallelujah” Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. (I’ve put much more about the “Hallelujah” Chorus in my Additional Verses Bible Study.) At the end of his 259-page manuscript of the entire work, Handel wrote the letters “SDG” — Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone the glory.” Let us approach the inspired words (most especially “Hallelujah” itself) and the glorious music with this same devotion.

Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdom of this world is become
the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ;
and He shall reign for ever and ever.
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
Hallelujah!

Hallelujah Chorus

The first performance of Handel’s Messiah was in the Musick Hall, Fishamble Street, Dublin, April 13, 1742.
Shown here is a detail from the “Hallelujah” chorus, part book of Christ Church cathedral (RCB Library, Dublin)


 
BIBLICAL USES OF THE WORD “HALLELUJAH”

Old Testament:

Psalm 104:35 — May sinners vanish from the earth and wicked people be no more. My soul, praise Yahweh! Hallelujah!
Psalm 105:45 — All this happened so that they might keep His statutes and obey His instructions. Hallelujah!
Psalm 106:1 — Hallelujah! Give thanks to Yahweh, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 106:48 — May Yahweh, the God of Israel, be praised from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!” Hallelujah!
Psalm 111:1 — Hallelujah! I will praise Yahweh with all my heart in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.
Psalm 112:1 — Hallelujah! Happy is the man who fears Yahweh, taking great delight in His commands.
Psalm 113:1 — Hallelujah! Give praise, servants of Yahweh; praise the name of Yahweh.
Psalm 113:9 — He gives the childless woman a household, making her the joyful mother of children. Hallelujah!
Psalm 115:18 — But we will praise Yahweh, both now and forever. Hallelujah!
Psalm 116:19 — in the courts of Yahweh’s house — within you, Jerusalem. Hallelujah!
Psalm 117:2 — For His faithful love to us is great; Yahweh’s faithfulness endures forever. Hallelujah!
Psalm 135:1 — Hallelujah! Praise the name of Yahweh. Give praise, you servants of Yahweh
Psalm 135:21 — May Yahweh be praised from Zion; He dwells in Jerusalem. Hallelujah!
Psalm 146:1 — Hallelujah! My soul, praise Yahweh.
Psalm 146:10 — Yahweh reigns forever; Zion, your God reigns for all generations. Hallelujah!
Psalm 147:1 — Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely.
Psalm 147:20 — He has not done this for any nation; they do not know His judgments. Hallelujah!
Psalm 148:1 — Hallelujah! Praise Yahweh from the heavens; praise Him in the heights.
Psalm 148:14 — He has raised up a horn for His people, resulting in praise to all His godly ones, to the Israelites, the people close to Him. Hallelujah!
Psalm 149:1 — Hallelujah! Sing to Yahweh a new song, His praise in the assembly of the godly.
Psalm 149:9 — carrying out the judgment decreed against them. This honor is for all His godly people. Hallelujah!
Psalm 150:1 — Hallelujah! Praise God in His sanctuary. Praise Him in His mighty heavens.
Psalm 150:6 — Let everything that breathes praise Yahweh [a variation on “Hallelujah”]. Hallelujah!

 
New Testament:

Revelation 19:1 — After this I heard something like the loud voice of a vast multitude in heaven, saying: Hallelujah! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God,
Revelation 19:3 — A second time they said: Hallelujah! Her smoke ascends forever and ever!
Revelation 19:4 — Then the 24 elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who is seated on the throne, saying: Amen! Hallelujah!
Revelation 19:6 — Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying: Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, has begun to reign!

 
 


You are invited to read my Daily Verses and Additional Verses Bible Study.
The verses are posted each day on my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The Bible Study is available free by email
or on the pages of the Ronald L. Dart Evangelistic Association.
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ARTICLE © 2018, DR. GROVER B. PROCTOR, JR. — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 
 

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… With Your Face Toward the Ground

 

Today is America’s annual National Day of Prayer.

 
This year’s theme is “Pray for America — UNITY,” and the National Day of Prayer Task Force has taken a small snippet of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as its motto. (See the “media graphic” below.)

Here is Paul’s entire thought (which is broader and far more profound) from which the short fragment was taken:

“Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope at your calling — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
— EPHESIANS 4:1-6 (HCSB)

We call on all Americans today to “bow with your face toward the ground” — in humble “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” to the “one God and Father of all.” Here is the promise we have been given:

“If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on My people,  and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
— 2 CHRONICLES 7:13-14 (HCSB)

In other words: “Be humble, seek God through prayer, and stop sinning as a Nation” is promised to bring personal forgiveness and national blessings. Looking around at the state of our country today, I think it’s about time we took the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob up on that promise.

National Day of Prayer - 2018

The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S Truman. In 1988, the law was unanimously amended by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Thursday, May 5, 1988, designating the first Thursday of May as a day of national prayer.
Every president since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.


 

A Prayer for America

 
Our Father and Our God,
         We praise You for Your goodness to our nation, giving us blessings far beyond what we deserve.
       Yet we know all is not right with America. We deeply need a moral and spiritual renewal to help us meet the many problems we face.
       Convict us of sin. Help us to turn to You in repentance and faith. Set our feet on the path of Your righteousness and peace.
       We pray today for our nation’s leaders. Give them the wisdom to know what is right, and the courage to do it.
       You have said, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” May this be a new era for America, as we humble ourselves and acknowledge You alone as our Savior and Lord.
       This we pray in Your holy name, Amen.

— Billy Graham


 

 

COPYRIGHT 2018 DR. GROVER B. PROCTOR, JR. — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 
 

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Billy Graham (1918-2018)

The elder Billy GrahamToday we learned of the death of Billy Graham, lauded by many as the greatest Christian preacher of the 20th century. He died at his home in Montreat, located in the beautiful moutains of North Carolina.

During the many decades of his evangelizing around the globe, broadcasting in all media, authoring books, and being the unofficial “Pastor to the Presidents,” his effect on the spiritual life of the entire world was incalculable. Never afraid to hold up a mirror to sin, Graham unabashedly and fiercely called everyone to repentance.

From the church pulpit or the podium inside a 50,000-seat coliseum or in city streets and parks, he had a powerful and polished speaking style, to say the least. He was able to bring emotions up to peaks of joy and expectation of God’s love, and take them down to the burning conviction of our own sins. Tears were common at his revivals, even from seemingly tough, steel-hardened men of the earth and the factories. When Mr. Graham believed that the audience had been fully convicted of their need for repentance and salvation, he would invariably issue an altar call, which usually brought huge numbers of penitents and converts.

But any outsiders looking into one of these arenas (or viewing a television broadcast, appropriately titled The Hour of Decision) would be totally in error to conclude that Mr. Graham’s ministry comprised only emotion and fervor. Anyone reading printed transcriptions of his sermons would immediately conclude they were theologically as well as logically sound, based on doctrines straight from Christian orthodoxy. His emphasis was always on examining oneself, the act of repenting, accepting the saving grace of God, and living a life in which one’s relationship with God is the most important thing in the universe.

Mr. Graham was a keen observer of the issues of the day, but his interest in them was solely limited to a Christian perspective. Trying to classify him as Left, Right, Conservative, Liberal, Democrat, or Republican (or any other similar label) was as nonsensical as trying to assign a gender classification to the Sun. Case in point — We would all do well to deeply consider this prayer of Graham’s which summarizes his view of this nation and the world:

Billy GrahamHeavenly Father,
We come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance.
We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done:
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it politics.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.
Amen!

Mr. Graham lived the Christ-centered doctrines of love, repentance, and forgiveness that he preached. He told it like it was, even before that became a thing. And he was uncompromising in his Christian views on even the most controversial topics. A prime example was his early stand on issues related to the country’s racial problem.

    Billy Graham & Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • At a 1953 Tennessee rally (think about that date!), he himself physically tore down the ropes that the organizers had put in place to keep the audience racially segregated. When confronted about his actions, Mr. Graham informed the organizers that they were to leave the barriers down “or you can go on and have the revival without me.”
  • He once warned an all-white audience “We have been proud and thought we were better than any other race, any other people. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to stumble into hell because of our pride.”
  • As documented by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, “Billy Graham and Martin Luther King, Jr. experienced a unique friendship that dates back nearly 60 years. In the summer-long 1957 New York Crusade, the two friends took the stage together in Madison Square Garden and boldly took a stand to help end segregation in the United States. ‘I think both Dr. Graham and my father were trying to make the world a better place,’ said Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr.”

This morning, Mr. Graham joined all of “those who sleep in death” awaiting the Resurrection to eternal life as Paul described it throughout his writings.* Though parted from this life, this great modern evangelist has left a legacy of preaching total submission to God, abject repentance for sins, undeniable certainty of God’s grace and our need for forgiveness, constant service to our brothers and sisters, and the daily calling to mirror God’s love to the world.

We need that today perhaps more than ever.


A Tribute to Billy Graham (5:51)
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

“When we reach the end of our earthly journey, we will have just begun.”
WILLIAM FRANKLIN GRAHAM, JR.
(1918-2018)


NOTES:
*
ROMANS 13; 1 CORINTHIANS 11 & 15; EPHESIANS 5; 1 THESSALONIANS 4 & 10
PHOTO CREDITS: (TOP) CHRISTIANITY TODAY; (MIDDLE) BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSOC.; (BOTTOM) BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSOC.
VIDEO CREDIT: BILLY GRAHAM EVANGESLTIC ASSOC.

 

COPYRIGHT 2018 DR. GROVER B. PROCTOR, JR. — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2018 in Today's World, Worship

 

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What Sweeter Music?

The Timeless Music about Christ’s Birth

In this post, I am giving you a gift of Nativity music from my heart, which I hope you will enjoy and be inspired by 365 days a year. While music about the birth of Jesus is played and sung almost exclusively in December the world over, I’d like to make what some will see as a radical suggestion — that Christians use it in worship all year round.

After all (as everyone from the Catholic and Jewish Encyclopedias to countless Protestant Commentaries all agree) we have no unimpeachable knowledge as to when He was born — although it seems highly unlikely that it was December 25.

The date of the birth of Jesus was never revealed to us, which in and of itself raises the question of whether we were intended to observe it at all. But that hasn’t stopped speculation throughout the last 2000 years. It seems to have been in Egypt after 200 A.D. when the very first feast of the Nativity was held, and Bishop Clement of Alexandria noted that the church there “curiously” selected the date of May 20, “apparently out of thin air.”

In modern times, because so much of the earthly ministry of Christ (our Passover) was linked to God’s Holy Days, some theologians have suggested He may have been born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and therefore circumcised on the 8th and Last Great Day of the Feast.

Jonathan Cahn

Jonathan Cahn

More recently, a new and compelling theory of the birth date of Christ has come from Jonathan Cahn, the Messianic Jewish author of the best-selling books The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah. Drawing research from such widely diverse sources as the Talmud, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Greco-Roman astronomer/astrologer Ptolemy, the Vatican document archives, and numerous Scripture references from both Testaments, Cahn believes that the most doctrinally, historically, and prophetically sound choice is Nisan 1 — the first day of the first month of the Hebrew sacred calendar — which falls each year somewhere from late-March to early-April in the Western calendar. (If you have an interest in hearing Cahn’s 30-minute explanation of his remarkable reasoning and findings, click here to watch his video.)
 

We Simply Don’t Know

Even with such interesting theories to choose from, the fact is that we simply do not know for certain when Christ was born.

Celebrating the FACT of His birth, taken in tandem with what it means for our eternal lives, seems far more important than celebrating solely on the day we think may be the anniversary of it. So might we agree to use the Nativity story for worship at any time of the year, employing all of the glorious music written about it? This is literally, I hope, a “timeless” suggestion.

With that in mind, here are four works that are up there among the greatest Nativity carols/arias/performances/recordings that I have ever encountered. While this article offers only four of them, I may well add more as time goes by.

As always, it will be true for each of them that good quality headphones are almost mandatory, in order to appreciate the subtleties and nuances of the performances.
(I’ve given the complete lyrics for each selection at the bottom of this post, in case you want to follow along.)

 


ONE   “Mary Did You Know” (Pentatonix)

This first selection was originally a gospel song that many have come to love. Of the 15+ recordings of it I have heard, this performance is by far and away the most pure, inspirational, tender, and beautiful. It is performed with precision laced with abundant feeling by the a cappella specialists Pentatonix. The amazing musical climax they provide — beginning (at 2:20) with Jesus being “the Lord of all Creation” and ending with (most emphatically, at 2:48) the revelation He Himself made that He was “the Great I AM” — reflects and summarizes the most astonishing of all the aspects of the earthly-yet-eternal life of the Christ.

“Mary Did You Know” by Pentatonix


TWO   “What Sweeter Music,” (John Rutter)

This gem is a modern setting of the 17th-century poem “A Christmas Carol” by Robert Herrick. And you may find, as Adrianne and I do, this to be one of the sweetest and most beautiful carols ever. Composer John Rutter is renowned for his short pieces about the birth of Christ, and he may have reached his pinnacle with this one. He is conducting his own Cambridge Singers here, in what is almost certainly the most moving, jewel-like performance of it on record.

“What Sweeter Music” by John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers


THREE   “Sweet Is the Song the Virgin Sang” (Ralph Vaughan Williams)

This sweet lullaby comes from a larger work, a cantata telling the entire story of the Nativity called Hodie (This Day), written by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. I strongly commend the entire hour-long masterpiece to you, but here I’m giving you one short section only — the endearingly sweet lullaby of Mary as she “ponders in her heart” the mystery of her being the mother of the Savior of the world. Sir David Willcocks conducts the Choristers of Westminster Abbey and the London Symphony Orchestra in this classic 1965 recording. The soloist is the incomparable Dame Janet Baker.

“Sweet Was the Song the Virgin Sang” by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Dame Janet Baker, Choristers of Westminster Abbey


Alfred Deller

Alfred Deller


FOUR   “All My Heart This Night Rejoices” (Alfred Deller)

2016 marked the 350th anniversary of the writing of this traditional chorale by German composer Johann Ebeling. I freely admit to having a sentimental attachment to this recording, performed by countertenor Alfred Deller. As far back in ancient history as my college days, I fell in love with Deller’s beautiful singing, his lyrical phrasings, the gentle counterpoint of the accompaniment as played by lutenist/guitarist Desmond Dupré, as well as the carol’s endearing message and the music’s graceful lilt. Some may be taken aback by hearing a man sing with such a high-pitched voice, but the countertenor (sometimes called male alto) voice has a long and distinguished history in Western music. (Mark Deller, Alfred’s son, is also one of England’s foremost countertenors.) If you think about it, our popular music also includes men with equally high ranges — but none, I would suggest, are as simply beautiful as Deller’s.

“All My Heart This Night Rejoices” by Alfred Deller


Lyrics
 
ONE   Mary Did You Know” (Pentatonix)

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.

Mary, did you know?

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the Lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM !

(lyrics by Mark Lowry)


 
TWO   “What Sweeter Music” (John Rutter)

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this day,
That sees December turned to May.

Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
‘Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To heaven and the under-earth.

We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.

Which we will give him; and bequeath
This holly and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour, who’s our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?

(“A Christmas Carol” by Robert Herrick)


 
THREE   “Sweet Was the Song the Virgin Sang” (Vaughan Williams)

But Mary kept all these things,
and pondered them in her heart.

Sweet was the song the Virgin sang,
When she to Bethlem Juda came
And was delivered of a Son,
That blessed Jesus hath to name:
“Lulla, lulla, lulla-bye,
      Sweet Babe,” sang she,
      And rocked him sweetly
          on her knee.

“Sweet Babe,” sang she, “my son,
And eke a Saviour born,
Who hath vouchsafèd from on high
To visit us that were forlorn:
“Lalula, lalula, lalula-bye,
      Sweet Babe,” sang she,
      And rocked him sweetly
          on her knee.

(anonymous Medieval lyrics)


 
FOUR   “All My Heart This Night Rejoices” (Alfred Deller)

All my heart this night rejoices,
      As I hear,
      Far and near,
Sweetest angel voices.
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing,
      Till the air
      Everywhere
Now with joy is ringing.

Hark! a voice from yonder manger,
      Soft and sweet,
      Doth entreat,
“Flee from woe and danger.
Brethren come, from all doth grieve you
      You are freed,
      All you need
I will surely give you.”

Come then, let us hasten yonder;
      Here let all,
      Great and small,
Kneel in awe and wonder.
Love Him who with love is yearning;
      Hail the Star
      That from far
Bright with hope is burning!

Thee, dear Lord, with heed I’ll cherish,
      Live to Thee,
      And with Thee
Dying, shall not perish;
But shall dwell with Thee for ever,
      Far on high
      In the joy
That can alter never.

(original German lyrics by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676)
 

COPYRIGHT 2025, 2017 DR. GROVER B. PROCTOR, JR. — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Worship

 

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