My Paul’s and my childhoods could probably not be more different from each other. I guess my parents’ childhoods probably had some distinct differences, too, but all the same, in comparison to Paul’s and mine, theirs are almost identical. One similarity is the emphasis on hymns. Grandma G wasn’t the only one who sang hymns while doing housework–or maybe she was, but the rest of us sing hymns at other times. Anyway, the point is, hymns. Lots of them.
One Sunday after church, RevCD said, “I saw you singing that whole hymn by memory!” Thing is, I kind of do that a lot, and don’t even think about it. Doesn’t everybody do that? Grandma and Grandpa G used to have us sing hymns and choruses after dinner. We have stories about hymns in my family, like my Pennsylvania Dutch Grandpa M’s family singing “O Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness” while working on their dairy farm or something like that. Grandma M, meantime, would tell us the stories behind hymns, and quote them at length in her Christmas cards.
There’s the well-known story of how “Amazing Grace” got written by the ex-slave trader John Newton. There’s the only slightly less-well-known story of Horatio G. Spafford’s family dying at sea, after which horrific losses, he wrote “It Is Well With My Soul.” Then there’s the completely obscure hymn, “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime,” which I happen to know was written by a French Catholic priest as he tried to introduce some Native Americans to Jesus and the Christmas story.
The thing about hymns is, half the time they’re stories themselves, and they were written by people with stories, and they reflect the story of God in those peoples’ lives so that people like my grandparents . . . my parents . . . me . . . you, too, if you wanted . . . draw closer to the God whose truth we sing, and to the people who followed Him before us.