2019-04-01

“Christ the Lord is Risen Today”

“Christ the Lord is Risen Today” is an Easter hymn that has endured for hundreds of years and is a popular choice for Easter services in Catholic churches, United Methodist churches and in churches of other denominations as well. It was written in the 1700s. Its lyrics were written by Charles Wesley, and its music was composed by Lyra Davidica.

The hymn was written specifically for the Easter season. Through jubilant Alleluias at the end of each line, it is filled with praise for God. It also magnificently glorifies Christ’s Resurrection by triumphantly proclaiming His victory over death. Throughout the lyrics, it also unites heaven and earth in praise of Christ’s glorious victory. One powerful verse boldly proclaims, “Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia! Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia! Death in vain forbids Him rise, Alleluia! Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!”   

“I Know that My Redeemer Lives”

Another 18th Century church hymn that is also used in the services of Christian churches of various denominations is “I Know that My Redeemer Lives.” Like “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” it was written by Charles Wesley, the English hymn-writer who reportedly wrote more than 5,000 hymns. The music was composed by the iconic composer George Frederick Handel.

In the song, which was originally entitled “Rejoicing in Hope,” Wesley – who was also a preacher – expressed his devout Christian faith. In words that praise Jesus and show deep gratitude for the grace of God, Wesley rejoices in our firm belief that Jesus is the perfect manifestation of God’s grace. Some of the lines that reflect our Christian beliefs about the Resurrection include, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and ever prays for me; a token of His love He gives, a pledge of liberty.”   

“In Christ Alone”

A contemporary 21st Century hymn that also reflects the hope and joy of Easter is “In Christ Alone.” Its lyrics were written by Stuart Townend, and its music was composed by Keith Getty. Written in 2001, the song has been recorded by Christian artists including Kristyn Getty, MercyMe and Newsboys.

The song has become a favorite Easter hymn of many. It speaks of the love and righteousness of Jesus and how He conquered sin by giving His life for us. It also reflects on His glorious presence in our lives and what an amazing gift that is to us. Some of the lines that reveal that reflection include, “In Christ alone, my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song; This Cornerstone, this solid Ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, When fears are stilled, when strivings cease! My Comforter, my All in All, Here in the love of Christ I stand.”

“The Old Rugged Cross”

One classic American Easter hymn is “The Old Rugged Cross.” Written by George Bennard in the early 1900s, the beloved song has touched many hearts. And although it focuses more on how Jesus suffered out of His love for us, the steadfast commitment to Jesus that the song encourages is uplifting. Over the years, the song has been recorded by country music artists such as Johnny Cash, Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson.

With its understated beauty, “The Old Rugged Cross” is a timeless hymn that could be sung during the season of Lent as well as the season of Easter. The song doesn’t turn away from all that the Lord suffered in order to save us. Instead, it juxtaposes images of frightening pain beside images of eternal glory. Then, the last verse shows the Christian journey in a similar light. It states, “To the old rugged cross, I will ever be true;Its shame and reproach gladly bear; Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away, where His glory forever I’ll share.”   

“Amazing Grace”

Although “Amazing Grace” isn’t an Easter hymn, it’s one of the most powerful Christian songs that’s loved by several denominations. It was written in the 1700s by John Newton. The former captain of a slave ship, whose life was transformed after an encounter with God during a fierce storm at sea, not only wrote songs about God’s amazing grace, he preached about it as a minister for the Church of England, and he became an abolitionist.  Charles Wesley, the prolific songwriter mentioned earlier, was one of the most influential people in his ministry.  

Even though it’s not an Easter song, it’s a stunning, beautiful expression of gratitude to God for His transformative grace through Jesus, our Savior and living expression of that grace. In the Easter season, our eyes are open to the love, grace and power of God in a similar way to the song lyrics stating that he was blind, but now he sees. With Jesus’ Resurrection, we were freed from sin, and we were given hope, which is more precious than possessions or money. The fourth verse beautifully proclaims this with the words, “He will my Shield and Portion be, As long as life endures.” 

“Joy to the World”

Like “Amazing Grace,” “Joy to the World” is not considered an Easter hymn. It’s widely considered to be a Christmas song. But because of the strong parallel between the Christmas season and the Easter season, it’s just as perfect for the latter of the two as it is during the merriest time of the year. It was written by Isaac Watts in 1719. As part of his mission to show how the Psalms point to Jesus, he wrote “Joy to the World” based on Psalm 98.  

Because Psalm 98 encourages everyone to rejoice in God’s triumph at the end of times, the hymn wasn’t specifically written for Christmas, just as it wasn’t written for Easter. But the hope and joy that flourish in each season makes the hymn ideal for both. And, as with the other hymns mentioned, God’s grace and love are sublimely praised throughout the song. An excellent example of this can be seen in the verse, “He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love, And wonders, wonders of His love.”  

“O Happy Day”

The original version of “O Happy Day” was written in the 1700s by Philip Doddridge. The English Non-Conformist minister is believed to have written hymns that summarized his sermons. The original title of “O Happy Day” was “Rejoicing in our Covenant: Engagement with God.” In the 1960s, Edwin Hawkins adapted the hymn, and he and the Edwin Hawkins Singers made it into a gospel music standard.

The hymn that Doddridge penned is ideal for the Easter season because it celebrates the new covenant with God through Jesus, our Savior, His loving sacrifice on the cross and His Resurrection. It’s also ideal because it celebrates our salvation in such a jubilant way. The original chorus reflects the joy that Doddridge found in the Resurrection and the hope it offers to all. The chorus proclaims, “Happy day, Happy day, When Jesus washed my sins away! He taught me how to watch and pray, And live rejoicing ev’ry day; Happy day, happy day, When Jesus washed my sins away.”  

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