This blog post has been adapted from an article that appears in Lutheranism 101: third edition.
How horribly unfair movies are toward Christianity.
I am speaking generally, of course. But Hollywood is not a hotbed of orthodox Christian thought and practice. Movies often show the very opposite of what the Church teaches, but more than that, they often portray Christianity and traditional worship services as boring, dull, and humorously bad.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
This post is from Praise and Honor: Hymn Inspired Devotions.
“Where Shepherds Lately Knelt” is a remarkable gift, but it is easily missed because it is placed a third of the way into our hymnal’s Christmas section. …This hymn takes our doubts, weaknesses, and pains directly to the world’s key event, where we ponder its impact upon our lives and other people’s. Most of all, this remarkable hymn brings Christmas peace. …
During the Christmas season, many songs resonate with people around the world. One of those immediately recognizable hymns is “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” found in Lutheran Service Book (803). As a child, I frequently sang this in children’s choirs and even played it on my flute year after year. It’s loved by so many and a staple of winter and Christmas celebrations. Additionally, Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthday is celebrated in December (based on his Baptism date of December 17), with 2020 marking the 250th anniversary of his birth. It’s perfect timing for his most favored tune, HYMN TO JOY, to make an appearance!
This excerpt is from “The Reformation and Lutheran Confessionalism to 1620” by Christopher Boyd Brown. Read the entire essay and learn more about the Reformation and its impact on Lutheran worship in Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns.
Thou camest to our hall of death,
O Christ, to breathe our poisoned air,
To drink for us the dark despair
That strangled our reluctant breath.
So writes Martin Franzmann in my school’s hymn of the year: “O God, O Lord of Heaven and Earth” (LSB 834). With strong and striking text, he could almost be predicting our 2020 world of “poisoned air” and “reluctant breath,” thanks to the awful virus. It may be a novel coronavirus, but there is nothing novel about sickness and death, though it is fresh in our minds these days. Since our first parents partook of the fruit of the forbidden tree, our air has been poisoned, our breath both reluctant and short, and our despair, indeed, dark.
What’s the very first thing you do when you get to church on Sunday morning? With social distancing it might look a bit different right now, but do you usually greet the people around you? Sip the coffee you grabbed from the refreshments table? Sit down, pray for a few minutes, and center yourself for worship? As a long-time music lover (and player), the first thing I always did was look up what we would be singing for the day. Knowing which hymns would ring out during service was important to me, not only to see if we’d sing my favorites but also to see what the service was going to be about.
Think about your favorite hymn in Lutheran Service Book. If you have a hymnal handy, take a minute to look it up. In the bottom right corner of the page, there’s probably a name listed in all capital letters—this is the hymn tune. Some are simple, like CAROL or GREENSLEEVES. Others are phrases, often in Latin or German.
Music is a wonderfully underrated teaching tool. Think back to your childhood. Can you remember singing your ABCs? What about the catchy tunes from Schoolhouse Rock!, which covered history, math, science, and grammar? It’s not surprising that many educators use music to help their students learn and memorize curriculum.
Martin Luther was extremely familiar with the concept of music as a teaching tool. In fact, Luther wrote six catechism hymns, one for each of the Six Chief Parts of the Small Catechism. He knew that by putting the words of Christian doctrine next to a hymn tune, it would help the people to remember the words and their meaning more easily.
The past several months in this country have made many weary, worn out, and tired. From fighting a pandemic to fighting racial injustice, there have been difficulties in neighborhoods from coast to coast. During these times of struggle and injustice, the meaningful message of hymns continues to provide comfort and point people to Christ.