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 12, 2016


DOWN FROM HIS GLORY is a song we usually only hear performed as a solo, mainly because of its wide range.  It is sung to the familiar tune of Edwardo Di Capua's, “’O Sole Mio.”  Or, if you are an Elvis Presley fan, you will recognize the melody of “It’s Now Or Never.”
I was surprised to discover that this song is not as contemporary as I thought.  It was written nearly 100 yrs. Ago, by William Booth-Clibborn, the grandson of William Booth who founded the Salvation Army.

The song begins with the glorious mystery we sometimes call the Humiliation of Christ.  It is the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ as is explained in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi,”...although He existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, (or held on to) but (He) emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”  

Think about that.  That little baby in the crib is God in human flesh and it is improper to consider His entrance into the world without understanding His purpose in coming.

What the shepherds saw that night, was the Sovereign King of Creation wrapped in filthy rags and lying in a dirty feeding trough.  He is the Righteous One of the Universe who opens His arms wide to wicked, sinful men. He is The Giver of Life, the One who IS Life, and He was born to die.  The One who made the Law; the One whose Word IS the Law, and the only One who ever kept the Law; the Judge of the world came to offer complete pardon and mercy to undeserving men. The Highest was utterly humiliated.  In Him, poverty becomes riches, tears become joy, death becomes life, trash becomes treasures, and sinners become saints.

The Christmas story, by itself, is incomplete.  In fact, it is meaningless and irrelevant without the Easter story. Paul’s revelation continues, “…Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” 

Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived a perfect and sinless life, died a horrible death on the cross, was buried and then, three days later He rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures. That is the message of the Gospel.  Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and perfectly satisfied God’s righteous justice.  Someone has summarized it like this: “I owed a debt I could not pay; He paid a debt He did not owe.”

In the third stanza, the writer makes a personal proclamation, “And Now I know Thou Art the Great I Am.” 

Because of who Christ is, and because of what He has done for us, He is worthy of our praise and worship.  And so, each stanza ends with this song of praise:

“O how I love Him!  How I adore Him! 
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all.
The Great Creator became my Savior,
And all God’s fullness dwelleth in Him!”

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