“What gift of grace is Jesus my Redeemer! There is no more for Heaven now to give;
He is my joy, my righteousness, and freedom; my steadfast love, my deep and boundless peace
To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus! For my life is wholly bound to His;
Oh how strange and divine, I can sing: all is mine—Yet not I, but through Christ in me.
The night is dark but I am not forsaken, for by my side, the Saviour He will stay
I labour on in weakness and rejoicing; For in my need, His power is displayed
To this I hold, my Shepherd will defend me; Through the deepest valley He will lead
Oh the night has been won, and I shall overcome—Yet not I, but through Christ in me
No fate I dread, I know I am forgiven; The future sure, the price it has been paid
For Jesus bled and suffered for my pardon, and He was raised to overthrow the grave
To this I hold, my sin has been defeated! Jesus now and ever is my plea;
Oh the chains are released, I can sing: I am free—Yet not I, but through Christ in me
With every breath I long to follow Jesus for He has said that He will bring me home
And day by day I know He will renew me until I stand with joy before the throne
To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus, all the glory evermore to Him
When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat—Yet not I, but through Christ in me.”
-CityAlight (Michael Ray Farren / Jonny Robinson / Richard C. Thompson, Copyright ©2018 City Alight Music)
When choosing our hymns for the year there is a lot that I think about. I think about the state of the world and our country, I think about seasonal changes and celebrations, I think about the HH community and the desires you all have expressed, I think about the songs that I want my own children to remember and grab hold of throughout their lives, and I think about beautiful lesser known songs that need to be released from dusty hymnals. I think about the stories of their authors and how wonderfully encouraging the lives of these faithful saints are.
As I read about these men and women, I wonder about how it must have felt when they had their hearts flooded with soul stirring poetry and praise that would impact the Kingdom, point people to Christ, and stir up affections for God for hundreds if not thousands of years into the future. How I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall in Cowper’s house while in his brokenness he wrote God Moves in a Mysterious Way or to peek inside the house of Dorothy Thrupp as she penned Savior like a Shepherd Lead Us. I’ve wondered why there aren’t more Wesleys, Watts and Havergals today and I’ve asked God often to help His people write theologically rich, purposeful, God-centered modern hymns that will move people’s hearts for God.
THE HYMN WRITERS…
The good news is that those wonderfully meaty, theologically excellent hymns ARE still being written today. One of the places we are seeing beautiful modern hymns written is in Sydney, Australia from a church group called CityAlight. The vision of CityAlight is to write songs with biblically rich lyrics and simple melodies for the Christian church to sing. What a treat friends. Thanks to an interview with Tim Challies, we get to be a fly on the wall in New Zealand to hear the details! Here is what members Richard Thompson and Jonny Robinson had to say about CityAlight and writing modern hymns…
We began this writing project inspired by an idea… The idea was joy. More specifically we had in mind Christian joy which we believed to be something quite distinct, and we wanted that notion to inspire, underwrite, and unify the songs written for this project. The songs resulting from this meditation are six simple songs for the church centered upon those remarkable realities of the Christian faith that are occasions for deep and lasting joy.
There is a trend in the church music ‘industry’ to write songs quite quickly. A new song or two a day is a pretty common benchmark for many writers. Good songs can certainly be written that way. But, this method of writing is going to limit the kind of songs that come out. Certain songs just take time and work and reworking and meditation and reworking and discussion. Theology is rich and deep and our songs need to grapple with that. It is unlikely (though not impossible, it must be said) that a writer could dash off a song about God’s sovereignty or the mystery of suffering in an hour or two. In fact, there is the danger of arrogance where a person thinks they would be able to do that without serious thought with whatever ideas come easily to mind. Deep truths about the gospel take time to get a grip on and the songwriter must take the time to do it in order to bless the church. We are feeding the church. We need to feel the weight of that. What we put in the mouths of the body of Christ has the power to either strengthen a believer or distort their theology. We would argue that, because of the way songs stay in people’s minds, we have a responsibility just like the preacher delivering a sermon. In fact it could be argued that songs need even more care than sermons.
Our hymn “Yet Not I but Through Christ in Me” took us 12 weeks to write. We dove deep into the idea of what it meant to have Christ dwell in us. What an incredibly profound, mysterious truth. It needed time. We wrote and rewrote the songs many, many times. We struggled for every word.
This is an exploration of one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith. Having Christ in us calls together two apparently paradoxical ideas: we contend for the faith and we do it with Christ’s energy (Colossians 1.29 (NIV), ‘To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me’). Having Christ in us does not mean we do no more work, and neither does it mean we do it all. Rather, we contend and we contend with his energy. Even our final resurrection is made possible by the gift of Christ in us. He will bring us to glory. In our weakness he is strong, and he will complete the work he has begun. He himself is within us, leading us home, step by step. Every believer has been given this gift. It’s worth singing about!
[As far as the tunes go] we are keen to make sure our songs are accessible. Complicated melodies, with large ranges, can distract from this pursuit. The more we can allow the melody to ‘get out of the way’ the better. Those songs that everyone loves—the ones that are sung the loudest—are often the ones with very simple, predictable melodies. Yet simple melodies are often the hardest to write. We spend a lot of time on creating melodies that carry emotion and lead the church through the journey of the song.
What a blessing to have an inside view into the work that went into writing this modern hymn. Read more about CityAlight and their beautiful modern hymns here: https://www.challies.com/interviews/get-to-know-cityalight-and-their-new-album/ We hope you enjoy taking time to memorize and meditate on “Yet not I But Through Christ in Me” this month. As my family closes out the school year, what a blessing it will be to remember our accomplishments and triumphs this year are not because of who we are, but because of what Christ is doing in and through us. May He receive all the glory and honor.
HOW WE DO HYMN OF THE MONTH
If you are new to this community, welcome! It is a great time to join in and make family worship a priority if you haven’t already. You may or may not be familiar with this hymn. Either way, we invite you to spend this month meditating on its truths.
To get you started, we’ve provided free printable lyrics, music and copywork — all found here!
Also, you can find fresh versions of the hymn on our YouTube channel that you and your family can sing along with. There are loads of fresh versions of our favorite hymns on our hymn of the month playlist. If you are interested in fleshing out this month’s hymn with activities, coloring sheets, devotional thoughts, journaling prompts, etc. our Spring Hymn Guide, is available for a small fee on Etsy. Thank you so much for your support of Happy Hymnody’s ministry!
When we began singing hymns with our littles about 10 years ago, we kept it simple… We prayed and sang one hymn together every night at bedtime for a whole month. Everyone’s family rhythm is different, so we welcome you to gather up your families, for just a few minutes each day, to sing, discuss and memorize this hymn (following your daily time in the Scriptures and in prayer) whether it is first thing in the morning, or around the dinner table or before bedtime – whatever works best for your family. You can let us know how it’s going by posting either a video or a photo on Instagram. Just tag it with #happyhymnody! As always, if you have any questions or if you’d like to share your heart with us, please don’t hesitate to reach out! God bless you all this month as you worship and follow Jesus together as a family!
With so much love,