I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Monday, December 26, 2016


AS, WITH GLADNESS, MEN OF OLD  was written by William Dix in 1860. He had been bed bound with a serious illness for a long time.  One evening he got the idea for this hymn and he began to form the line on note paper. The following year, his finished song was published in a small collection of his own works, which had a very limited circulation. From there it made its way into more popular collections, and today it has become known throughout the world.

I mentioned in another post, that many of our Christmas traditions are biblically inaccurate or they are based on fantasies or legends.  Some of those legends have to do with the kings or wise men.  Our traditions assume there were three because of the three gifts mentioned in scripture; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And the wise men have even been given names, Melchior, Balthazar, and Caspar—but those are not found anywhere in Scripture.

And we don't know that they were kings.  The Bible calls them Magi.  They were pagan priests who were considered, wise men (possibly astrologers) and they would have held powerful political positions in their Eastern countries.  The unfounded assumption that they were kings comes from Isaiah’s prophecy, “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:3). 

Another tradition Is that they visited Jesus in His manger bed at the time of His birth.  But Scripture indicates otherwise; "When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him." Matt. 2:10-11

Bible scholars believe that He must have been about two years old by the time the magi arrived.

In this song, Dix took that traditional departure from biblical accuracy where, in two phrases, he pictures the wise men at the manger.  That, however, doesn't diminish the theology or the value of this hymn; it just creates an unnecessary distraction.  For that reason, some authors have suggested a couple appropriate changes to those phrases, which we will use, for the sake of accuracy.  

There are two words that repeat several times --"As" and "So.” When you see the word, AS, you should look for the word, SO.  They are coupled to make comparisons between the recorded actions of the wise men and the appropriate applications for to us today.  In other words, as they did, So should we. 

In the first stanza, we see that the wise men were led to the Savior by the light of His star.   SO, like them, we also should be led to Him by the light of His Gospel; the Word of God.

In stanza 2, we see the wise men making their long, hurried journey to worship the Son of God.  SO, like them, we also should run to Him for mercy and joyfully worship Him because He Is Worthy.

In stanza 3, the wise men gave costly gifts to Jesus.  SO, like them, we also should present ourselves, pure and holy, to Him.

There is a fifth verse that has been omitted from the text in some hymnbook.  I think that is unfortunate because it is a great song of praise and a joyful proclamation of our hope.  Here it is printed below:

In that glorious city bright, 
None shall need created light.
You, its Light, its Joy, its Crown; 
You, its Sun which goes not down.
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!

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