Why I Love Hymns

I love hymns. I really do. I’ve been singing them my whole life. We have an old cassette tape of my sister Amy and me singing “God Is So Good” when we were preschoolers. My little sister Hannah sang “Jesus Loves Me” on stage at church as a toddler (and received a dollar for it if I remember correctly).

Hymns have been a very present part of our family from the beginning. They are familiar, they are comforting, and they are truth-telling. I love hymns.

hymnal

There was a time in my teenage years when I thought hymns were boring and hymnals weren’t cool. Like most teenagers involved in a church youth-group, I preferred singing worship choruses in a “hands-free” style. I tried persuading my music-minister dad that we should sing more modern songs and forget about the old stuff. I didn’t get very far, which was very frustrating to me at the time. I remember thinking to myself that people my age were never going to come to church if they didn’t like the music.

There are so many different types of music that people in the church like, because there are many different types of people. One genre is not better than the other. Yes, there are types of music that I like better than others. There are certain songs that make my face light up when the first notes begin on a Sunday morning or night. And yes, there are songs that are not my favorites.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t go to church for the music. I don’t go because the preaching is uplifting and entertaining and life-changing (although our preacher is awesome and does deliver those types of messages).

I go to church to serve. To obey, which is the heart of worship. God convicted me of this truth several years ago, when I felt like complaining about this song or that one. It’s not about the song I’m singing, it’s about the One I’m singing to.

Which brought me to my love of hymns and hymnals. I realized some time ago that hymns and hymnals were a very big part of my home church, and they were not going away. I started examining the hymns closely, realizing I had hidden many of the words away in my heart. I realized that snippets would come back to me several times a day in different situations, offering solutions and comfort and joy. I began to notice how my church family sounded when they sang certain hymns. Sometimes when I’m in the pew and we’re all singing I’ll stop and listen and just be completely blessed by the sound of hundreds of voices singing as one, to the One who gave the words in the first place. The voices rise together and fall together, like the ebb and flow of the ocean. It’s simply beautiful.

Last year, when I resolved to play the piano every day, I didn’t know what to start with. I play mostly by ear, so I had no sheet music. That first day, I sat down in a silent dining room (I know–my house, silent–MIRACLE!) and just stared at the keys.

Lord? My heart questioned. And He answered with a song…

I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back. 

So I started playing and singing along. The next day, He answered with another song…

There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God. A place where sin can not molest, near to the heart of God. 

And the next day…

Are you weary, are you heavy hearted? Tell it to Jesus. Tell it to Jesus.  Are you grieving over joys departed? Tell it to Jesus alone. 

He provided a song daily. And it was always a hymn. I think hymns were the first thing on my heart because they were the soundtrack to my upbringing. I started looking for hymnals and collecting different volumes. I mean, have you ever just sat down and read the words to a hymn? Really read them, instead of brushing them off as too old-fashioned or irrelevant to today’s world?

I read one hymn a day. I read the words and study them, and yes, sometimes I have to look up words that are huge and missing from my kindergarten teacher vocabulary. But they are awe-inspiring. Every syllable counts. The author’s use of even the smallest words like and the are intentional and meaningful.

And I love using a hymnal. My kids love using hymnals. They like to find the hymn numbers and read along, and I see them singing those words and stand in amazement to think they are singing the same words that were sung and written by our church’s history makers. I’ve learned to read music notes and timing (that I should have learned in my years and years of piano lessons) by using a hymnal every Sunday and reading from the hymnal daily. When congregations use hymnals, each singer gets to own his or her part in the singing. They get to hold a piece of  history in their hands, and be inspired to be a major part of the future church’s history.

Hymns don’t have to be old, either. My favorite modern day hymn writers happen to be Keith and Kristyn Getty, writers of “In Christ Alone”, which is one of my all-time favorite songs (it just happens to be a modern-day hymn, too!).

I’m in no way saying that it’s bad to sing worship choruses. I love worship choruses, too. They evoke powerful emotions in my soul when I hear and sing them. However, hymns can do that, too. For that matter, a good ole’ toe-tappin bluegrass number can do the same; or even a rock song or a gospel number. It depends on the heart of the listener. The heart has to be ready to worship and obey no matter the song, no matter what the air conditioner is set on, no matter if the church is using screens or hymnbooks. When I realized this several years ago, the Lord taught me a valuable lesson about worship and gave me a love of the old hymns of the church that will stay with me forever. In fact, it’s been there since my beginnings!

Here is an old hymn written in 1866 by A. Katherine Hankey. The words convey a timeless message. It’s sung by my dad, Tim Muncher,  who has faithfully led the singing of hymns in the local church for most of his adult life.

Tell Me The Old, Old Story   A. Katherine Hankey, Public Domain (1866)

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.

Tell me the old, old story. Tell me the old, old story. Tell me the old, old story! Of Jesus and His love!

Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always, if you would really be,
In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.

Refrain

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13 Responses to Why I Love Hymns

  1. Hildi Doelitzsch says:

    It was so funny…. I was just having a lovely time reading through some hymns at a website called hymnary.org, which I just found tonight, when all of a sudden your post;”Why I love Hymns” popped up on top of it:-)) Must have been God`s timing:-))

    I also treasure hymns more and more! Like you, I grew up in a family where we sang lots of hymns and Christian songs together. My dad is a talented and passionate piano player. My mum plays a little guitar and used to play the mandolin. My older brother didn`t seem to be so interested in singing.My younger brother is much younger, but joined in singing and playing the trumpet and the guitar early on. I was the soloist and I`ve just always loved to sing, especially together with my dad.

    There was also a period in my teens when I thought that hymns were not so cool and rather boring…. I think most of us have a few awkward ideas during teenage years….. But we get over it:-))
    Now I love more than ever to sing through old hymnbooks that I have found at my parent`s place. And each time we meet (which is not more than once or twice a year since we live in different countries) we love to sing these hymns together.

    I am also a fan of Keith and Kristyn Getty. Their modern hymns have been translated into many different languages. Not long ago, I was in touch with someone who had translated 15 of their hymns into my mother-tongue, Norwegian.He has now compiled them in a song book. I told my dad and he has just ordered one for me and one for him. So we are very exited to sing some new hymns together soon:-)

    There is something about the lyrics in hymns, maybe their awe of the wonderful Gospel, that
    touches my heart so deeply. I also love the rhymes and especially English hymns. Maybe it is because I grew up with them, being a missionary kid in Hong Kong.

    I also love other styles of music. But when it comes to lyrics, I think one can find many treasures within the hymns genre.

    As a songwriter, like you,Paige, I think we can learn a lot and get inspiration through looking at hymns.

    • Paige Givens says:

      Thanks Hildi. Say, do you listen to Solveig Leithaug? She is one of my favorite artists and has several hymns on her projects.

      • Hildi Doelitzsch says:

        Sorry for my late reply… Business has kept me forgetting a lot of small things lately…. Yes, I do listen to Solveig Leithaug, who is one of our dear Norwegian Christian singers I also like a lot, not just for the songs she sings but for the lovely lady she is!

        I didn`t know she had hymns on her projects. But I have several CD`s where she is singing. And I got a Christmas CD of her from my parents for Christmas some years ago.

  2. Jess Nail says:

    Ahhh, Paige! I LOVE hymns! So much of my childhood revolves around hymns and my sister and I performing special music during worship service. My all-time favorite is ‘Victory In Jesus.’

  3. Sabra Penley says:

    I think you must have visited my heart and written about it today, Paige. Honestly, so much of what you’ve written expresses my thoughts. I miss a good old-fashioned “hymn sing” and everyone harmonizing together. The hymns are a marvelous testimony of God’s grace and the stories behind them are humbling. Thank you for lifting my heart today with your words!

  4. April says:

    I love them too, my dear friend. I feel that I have such an old soul, because in an age when words to hymns are on a screen in many churches, my hands would much rather hold the hymnal as I prayerfully sing & worship, and view the words as I sing them from my heart, even though my head knows the words. I, too, believe that there is a time and place for worship songs too… but in my heart of hearts, I, personally worship through the hymns that I sing that I grew up with. Love this one, as I love all of your writings, words, and music!!

  5. Paige, I love this! I remember singing I have decided to follow Jesus in Sunday school! Every night before bed my Dad would take out a hymnal and sing us a few songs, such sweet memories!
    Cathy

  6. Rebekah says:

    Paige, I love what you have to say here . . . the old hymns have ministered to me, also . . . they are precious, precious treasures of truth. Before I had babies, I felt led to learn hymns on the piano and have committed many to memory–I can’t begin to describe what a blessing this has been to me in my walk with the Lord.

    I’m grateful to have read this post; the Lord bless you.

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