This week I was chatting with Al Herman, one of my fellow Elders, and he shared a link with me to a hymn he appreciated. Al shared “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners” (Listen here). I didn’t recognize the words immediately...but once again, I instantly knew the music! I knew that song as a hymn I grew up with, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus!” (in a very different musical style, you’ll hear the same tune: Hear the Petersens sing it here). The common thread is known as “Hyfrydol,” which means “cheerful” in Welsh. It was written by a 19 year-old Welsh composer, Rowland Pritchard, in 1844.
Both of these stories have a consistent thread running through them—and it wasn’t a history lesson or music theory! The external features from each were very different: culture, content, language, history, etc. So many differences, yet there was an underlying thread that held them all together: the music.
This became a very encouraging metaphor for me to understand how God’s story of his grace and peace are in many ways like the music in the stories above. They are always present, even when the outer circumstances like language, history, context and culture are not only different, but even alarming or frightening. As we’ve all experienced in the last year both uncertainty and difficulties, there is an underlying Someone who is consistent, steady and dependable.
When our circumstances feel overwhelming, God’s Word points us to that perspective which is consistent and runs through the whole story of the Bible. It doesn’t deny our pain, pretend that it is “not that bad,” nor does it patch it up with band-aids. Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Jesus Himself, reminds us “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:8, ESV). The reason for this is “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17, ESV)