by Jonathan Kohlmeier
Have you ever asked, “Why do we sing all these different hymns during church?” I have. Wouldn’t the service go much faster if we just started with the Invocation instead of singing all of the verses of some hymn before it? Do we really need a Hymn of the Day, doesn’t that just take up more time? I guess communion hymns are okay, they give us something to do while everyone else is receiving communion. Does Pastor really need to make the service even longer by having a closing hymn? What’s the point?
I used to think about those things. When I would see that we were singing a hymn with six verses I would feel like it was some kind of torture. If you can’t fit all the stanzas in between the music than it must be too long.
But now, if you haven’t guessed, my view of hymns has changed since then. We don’t sing hymns to keep us entertained during the service. If they were just to entertain us, then we’d probably have Pastor up front dancing and singing them to a karaoke track or something.
No, hymns aren’t there to keep us entertained. They are there to teach us. They are gifts to remind us of all that Christ has done for us and is doing for us. One of the hymns that do an exceptional job at this is found in the Lutheran Service Book, #602, “The Gifts Christ Freely Gives.”
The gifts Christ freely gives He gives to you and me
To be His Church, His Bride, His chosen, saved and free!
Saints blest with these rich gifts are children who proclaim
That they were won by Christ and cling to His strong name.
This stanza states that Christ’s gifts are not only free but that they are given to each of us. We are blessed with the gift of being His Church, His bride. He loves us as a husband is to love his wife. He loved us by giving His own life for us. We are chosen by Him in our Baptism where He marks us as saved and free from sin, death, and the power of the devil. In Baptism, we can also proudly proclaim that we were won by Christ and we are comforted by His name which He has placed on us.
The gifts flow from the font where He calls us to His own;
New life He gives that makes us His and His alone.
Here He forgives our sins with water and His Word;
The triune God Himself gives power to call Him Lord.
The gifts freely given by Christ are given to us in Baptism where we are continually called His children. In Baptism, we are given new life–an eternal life, a life that only children of God can have. This life is not only one that is free from sin but it never ends! That is certainly a remarkable gift that only Christ can give.
The gifts of grace and peace from absolution flow;
The pastor’s words are Christ’s for us to trust and know,
Forgiveness that we need is granted to us there;
The Lord of mercy sends us forth in His blest care.
Absolution is a great gift that we receive. It is given to us during the Divine Service and during the prayer office, Compline. Your pastor probably also has times set where he offers Private Confession and Absolution. If not, feel free to ask him about it. The pastor’s words are usually something like this, “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Those words are Christ’s words. All of our sins are forgiven by Christ right there. We can then go on in the Peace of Christ knowing that we are forgiven.
The gifts are there each day the Holy Word is read;
God’s children listen, hear, receive, and they are fed.
Christ fills them with Himself, blest words that give them life,
Restoring and refreshing them for this world’s strife.
God’s Word is a gift to us. Each day we have the chance to study God’s Word, but especially in the Divine Service, we hear about Christ and what He has done for us. The Word brings us life and salvation. It strengthens us, restores us and refreshes us throughout all this world’s strife.
The gifts are in the feast, gifts far more than we see;
Beneath the bread and wine Is food from Calvary.
The body and the blood remove our every sin;
We leave His presence in His peace, renewed again.
The Lord’s Supper is freely given to us in every Divine Service. We see bread and wine, but what we don’t see is far greater. In, with, and under the bread and the wine is Christ’s Body and Blood, broken and shed for us on the cross at Calvary. In this gift of His Body and Blood, we also receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.
One of the gifts that Christ loves to give to his children is the ability to praise Him. Through the gifts of God’s Word, Baptism, Holy Absolution, and The Lord’s Supper we can sing with all honor, sincerity, and praise:
All glory to the One who lavishes such love;
The triune God in love assures our life above.
His means of grace for us are gifts He loves to give;
All thanks and praise for His Great Love by which we live!”