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 19, 2016

*THAT BEAUTIFUL NAME (aka "I Know of a Name")

What would you think if you received a birth announcement from a friend or relative, and all it said was, “Our baby arrived today; his name is Jack?”
Birth announcements contain information:
Name _______________ Sex ____________
Date and time of birth _________ 
Location of birth _______________ 
Names of parents and siblings ____________

In other words, all the important facts but then there are always dozens of additional questions because people want more details; like how much does he weigh?  How long is she?  Who does he look like?  And most of them are silly questions anyway because, by the time those babies arrive home from the hospital, their weight and length will probably already have changed. And besides, almost all newborn babies look like Winston Churchill.  The reality is that there is not much about newborn babies that can be told except for those few bits of statistical information.

This past week I took some time to read, again, in chronological order, all the Bible passages about the birth of Jesus.  One thing that became glaringly evident was that so much of what we think we know about His birth is just speculation, tradition, and sometimes fantasy.  It is not revealed in Scripture.

For example, we don’t know that Jesus was born in a stable.  We don’t know if the messengers God sent were winged beings wearing bright white robes or if they appeared as men.  And we don’t know the date or the year of Jesus' birth.

When God sent the announcement of the birth of His Son, He only provided very limited and specific information to a few unnamed shepherds.  His announcement was brief; “… there is born to you this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

And that was followed by two sentences to inform them of how they would know when they found Him; “… And this will be the sign to you: You will find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

THAT’S IT! No other information was given in the announcement. That’s all God deemed necessary for them to know.   The baby was born “this day” (the day they heard the announcement).  He was born in the City of David.  He was declared, by God, to be the Savior.  And finally, He was identified; This baby is Christ the Lord.

And so, any other information that God has revealed about the birth of His Son, we can read in the pages of scripture.  We know that the angel told Joseph that he should call His NAME Jesus because He would save His people from their sins.

And we know that the angel also told Mary to NAME Him Jesus.

And we know from the prophet, Isaiah, that they would call His NAME Emmanuel, which means, God with us.

From these short passages, there can be no question; the NAME of this baby is the most important information in God’s birth announcement.  The NAME, Jesus  (Yeshua), means "Yahweh is Salvation."   

And for further amplification, the angel also revealed to Mary the reason for His NAME, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” 

He is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  The Name God gave His Son reveals His deity. This child is God in human flesh and He was born to die. 

THAT BEAUTIFUL NAME.  That wonderful Name; That matchless name is Jesus.

I know of a Name,
A beautiful Name,
That angels brought down to earth;
They whispered it low,
One night long ago,
To a maiden of lowly birth.

I know of a Name,
A beautiful Name,
That unto a Babe was given;
The stars glittered bright,
Throughout that glad night,
And angels praised God in Heav'n.

The One of that Name,
My Savior became,
My Savior of Calvary.
My sins nailed Him there;
My burdens He bare.
He suffered all this for me.

I love that blest Name,
that wonderful Name,
Made higher than all in Heav'n;
'Twas whispered, I know,
In my heart long ago.
To Jesus my life I've giv’n.

That beautiful Name,
That beautiful Name,
From sin has power to free us!
That beautiful Name,
That wonderful Name,
That matchless Name is Jesus!

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