Top Five Underrated Hymns… What Are They?
As noted in the recent article about Billy Graham, hymnody has found a new place of honor at the table in Christian Contemporary Music over the last ten years or so. Major Christian artists in recent years have recorded their own versions of classic hymns, which has inspired some CCM songwriters to write new songs in the style of old hymns—thus the birth of the “contemporary hymn” genre. I love many of these contemporary hymns, but now that Christian mainstream culture has rediscovered the genre, why write new ones when there are thousands upon tho
usands of amazing hymns waiting to be unearthed and heard again in the halls of Christendom?
Undoubtedly die-hard fans of hymns or people who grew up immersed in that music will recognize a few of these titles, but to help bring to light some forgotten treasures, below are five fabulous, yet obscure, hymns that everyone should hear:
Written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. in 1898, this hymn of fervent desire to rise above the fray in this world through Christ glows bright in lines like: “My heart has no desire to stay / Where doubts arise and fears dismay; / Though some may dwell where those abound, / My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.” Click here for words and music. Some of these sites require MIDI players to play the music. You can download a free MIDI player here.
“Now the Day is Over”
Published in 1865 and written by Sabine Baring-Gould, this hymn speaks comfort to any soul who often finds him or herself weary after a long day—which, in our over-stressed culture, is probably just about everyone. Click here for words and music.
The remaining three hymns on this list are written by Fanny Crosby, the famous blind songwriter who was one of the most prolific lyricists in the history of music. She wrote thousands of hymns—yes, thousands—and there are so many good ones that, frankly, a church could spend a few decades exploring and learning them all.
“The Pilgrim’s Journey”
This hymn beautifully captures the quest that all Christians undertake when they set out to follow Christ—click here for words and music.
“Stand Like the Brave”
This is a timely song for today. Many Christians in the West feel that their values and freedoms are under constant attack. This song reminds us to: “Press on, never doubting, thy Captain is near, / With grace to supply, and with comfort to cheer; / His love like a stream in the desert will flow; / Then stand like the brave, with thy face to the foe.” You can find the words here and an example of the music on YouTube here.
“Over the Beautiful River”
For anyone who has lost a loved one, this might be one of the most beautifully written lyrics to express a deeply comforting thought: though they are gone from this finite world, anyone we’ve lost who knew Christ is finally home, and they have joined the great cloud of witnesses in Heaven to watch us and cheer us on as we continue carrying the banner of Christ on earth. Click here for words and music.
The resurgence of hymns, I hope, will be an enduring trend. It bridges the divide between generations, it introduces richer literary text to what is sometimes overly simplistic lyricism in worship, and it gives our communities something special that cannot be replicated in the world: the legacy of Christian hymnody.