Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Patriotic Hymns

July 2, 2013

Todays post is an article I wrote for a friend and author, Alicia Willis, to be featured in her newsletter. Please take time to visit her website at http://thecomradesofhonorseries.weebly.com/. She is an exquisitely talented writer. 

My Favorite Patriotic Hymn
by
Jeanne Drennan

I must confess that, until Alicia asked me to write about my favorite patriotic hymn, I never gave the subject much thought. Not because I am unpatriotic in any way, but rather the opposite. I consider myself quite patriotic and extremely proud to be a citizen of these United States of America, enthralled by our Christian heritage and thankful for the godly men and women  who scarified so much to make this country free. I wondered, as I pondered this topic, why I had never given patriotic hymns much thought. Do others think on such things regularly, or even occasionally?
I decided, at last, that my dilemma was really no dilemma at all. These hymns that Americans love have always just been a part of who I am, woven into my being as a tapestry. You see, when I was a child growing up on Long Island, NY in the sixties and seventies, we were allowed to sing about and speak of God in school. Learning and performing these hymns were an integral part of, not only our music program, but also our daily classroom routine - right after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  As a young, naive child, singing these hymns about America, however, I never considered them to be anything more than a display of American pride. I never appreciated the depth of their meaning or their unbroken bond to our Christian heritage.
As I was reading over some of my favorite patriotic hymns, I was struck by the outcry to God that they revealed. These hymns are prayers of thanksgiving, prayers for protection and for wisdom;  praises to God for delivering them from the hands of their enemies and for blessing them with such a splendid and magnificent land. The words in America denote a righteous and God-honoring pride of country.

Our fathers' God to thee,
Author of liberty,
To thee we sing,
Long may our land be bright,
With Freedom's holy light,
Protect us by thy might,
Great God, our King.

In  America, The Beautiful, there is a cry to heal and sustain our land and a salute to those who shed their blood and gave their lives so we could be free.



America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

***

Who more than self their country loved,
and mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine!

These verses exemplify faith and a reverence for our Creator that is discernibly palpable! While they are obviously patriotic, conveying a deep love of country, they also display an undeniable acknowledgement that without God, America would not be possible. Their desire was that God receive the glory and honor for any success or gain achieved.

While I love these hymns of which I wrote, by far, my absolute favorite patriotic hymn is, The Battle Hymn of the Republic. I cannot sing it without tears welling, I can scarcely read the words without chills running up my spine. This hymn draws crowds to their feet. It causes chests to swell with pride and tears to fall for those who gave their lives for another. Young and old instinctively sing loudly and proudly the powerful words of this hymn.

 After Julia Howe visited a Union Army camp on the Potomac River during the American Civil War, she was led to write The Battle Hymn of the Republic the following morning. The words are straight from the pages of scripture. They affirm that God, His truth and His day are marching on, reminding us to be alert, because the time is near.  I see the hymn as an encouragement to continue fighting the good fight, literally, as it was during that war, and figuratively for us now, fighting the battles that are formed against us. And, being confident that, in it all, God is sovereign and completely in control. His plan was set before the creation of the world and it is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant my feet;
Our God is marching on.

This cherished hymn closes with a sweet promise for all who call upon His name in repentance and faith, and put their trust in Christ as their precious Savior:

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!...

Let this Independence Day have new significance in our lives. Let it be a day of thanksgiving to our God for the freedom we enjoy; a remembrance of those who sacrificed so much, and a confirmation that God's plan for us is perfect.

In closing, let the final verses of our National Anthem permeate your heart:

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us as a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the
home of the brave!

God's richest blessings upon you all!