Lyrics of Lent

While our church is filled with many meaningful traditions, one of my favorites during the season of Lent is singing “Abide With Me” at the end of our midweek worship services.  While this hymn is not located in the Lenten portion of our hymnal, it provides a great reflection at the end of the worship service and the end of our day.

Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

The inspiration for this hymn comes from the reading of Luke 24, where Jesus encounters two men walking on the road to Emmaus.  “…but [the men] urged [Jesus] strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’ So he went in to stay with them.” (Luke 24:29)  Shortly after the men’s plea for Jesus to stay, Jesus revealed Himself to them.  With that recognition came joy, comfort and hope.  Christ continues to reveal Himself to us in His Scriptures.  Like the disciples on the Easter day, we too can respond to God’s Word by sharing Immanuel, “God with us.”

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changes not, abide with me.

“Abide With Me” was written by Anglican pastor, Henry F. Lyte.  Henry was no stranger to difficulty and the prospect of death, as he battled tuberculosis all of his life.  Tradition holds that as Lyte grew older, living and serving in Lower Brixham, England, severely impacted his health and forced him to make a move to a warmer climate in Italy.  September 4, 1847, marked Lyte’s last sermon in his English parish.  It was noted that at this service, he crawled to the pulpit and stated, “It is my desire to induce you to prepare for the solemn hour which must come to all, by a timely appreciation and dependence on the death of Christ.”

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies.
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

I find it fitting that our Lenten season begins with a tangible reminder of the penalty of our sin.  the pastor makes the sign of the cross on my forehead paraphrasing Ecclesiastes 3:20, “All are from the dust, and to dust all return.”  Each day after Ash Wednesday is a reminder that my sin makes me deserving of death.  It also reminds me of the high price that Jesus paid on my behalf, by taking my death upon Himself.

It is Christ’s victory over death that gives us perspective on our earthly death and the words found in this classic hymn.

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

Our Lenten journey may begin with the reminder of death on Ash Wednesday, but the entire season of Lent points us to all that Jesus has done and continues to do on our behalf.  Singing “Abide with Me” at the end of worship reminds me that death is not the end, but rests in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Like the men who traveled the Emmaus road, Jesus continues to reveal Himself to us in His resurrection and remains with us.  And like the disciples, we can gladly spread the news that , “Jesus is risen indeed, Alleluia!”

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Osbeck, Kenneth W. (1990) Amazing Grace, 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions. Kregel Publication: Grand Rapids, MI.