Friday, December 17, 2010

The Second Verse

I grew up in a great church where the foundation was laid for my faith. I memorized Scripture there, I made lifelong friends there, and I learned to worship, particularly through music. Our church services had a healthy dose of hymns with a generous sprinkling of praise choruses, circa 1980s: "Majesty," "We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise," and "As the Deer" stand out in my mind. I still remember that "How Great Thou Art" was #2 in the hymnal.

We don't use that hymnal much these days. My kids are learning song lyrics from a screen in the worship center rather than the hymnal in the pew. In fact, I'm certain that that hymnal is not much more to them than a hard book to put under their children's bulletins that they work on during the sermon! And that makes me a little sad.

When I was growing up, sometimes I would get bored during the sermon. My mother suggested once that I listen carefully and write down all of the words I didn't understand. The only word I walked away with was "multitude," with a bunch of tally marks for every time the preacher said it. Sometimes I would pass the time reading the hymnal. Yes, I know it's kind of a dorky thing to do. But that opened my eyes to what I now consider to be often-overlooked treasures: the second verse. We always sing the first verse of a hymn, and often the third or fourth. But why not the second?

It's no wonder, then, that I was surprised in a good way as I was driving around town running errands with the radio on this week. "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" has a second verse that strikes my heart and meets me right where I am this Christmas:

And ye, beneath life's crushing load
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary load
And hear the angels sing.

Every step I take feels painful and slow, and sometimes even backwards. Even my commitment to seek out joy this holiday season seems like a mountain in and of itself some days. I will gladly accept the invitation to leave my load beside the manger and listen to the angels sing.

And I will sing along...with my hymnal open.


Kandice said...

You are awesome!!! I hope that you will be able to find JOY all around, because you bring Joy to those you come in contact with I am sure!!!!! Blessed to call you friend!! Love you

Jennifer said...

I love that! Sometimes, when we sing an old hymn at church, I still open up the hymnals, because Amazing Grace should be sung from a hymnal!

And every Christmas Eve, I use the hymnal as much as possible.

Angie said...

I couldn't agree more about the hymnals. Its like a part of the past that I am sad to see going. I just love your writing. Its exactly what I can't put into words. I am praying right now that your burden remains at the manger this Christmas season and you hear the joy of the angels singing. I love you friend! Merry Christmas!

bhayes11 said...

Wow - what inspiration - I'm gonna sing too!

Sharon said...

I used to think we skipped the 3rd verse because it either said something good about the devil or bad about God. hee, hee

Brian said...

Open the hymnal up this week, you can be one of the four out of 1200 who crack a hymnal each week... we put the hymn #s in the guide for people just like you.
I might have "borrowed" a hymnal from church and I sing hymns to the girls most night and I will make sure to always sing the second verse.
your friend, bd