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Singing through the Year: Give Me Jesus

Singing through the Year: Give Me Jesus

I really enjoy singing hymns in the car and as I'm caring for my son, but I often garble the lyrics of songs I don't know well, or I sing the same songs over and over because I really like them and actually know the lyrics.

Last week I posted about singing hymns with themes from the liturgical year—the calendar of holidays (holy-days) and scripture readings that most Christian churches follow. I’ve been following the calendar for the past several months to help me think of hymns on the spur of the moment. It's a lot easier to think of a few hymns related to our place in the calendar (such as the time around Thanksgiving), rather than choose from among hundreds of hymns.

This year, I’m being more intentional about it by sharing weekly hymns here. These will be related to the theme of the next Sunday's scripture readings or an upcoming holiday. And, very importantly, these hymns are all enjoyable to sing by yourself.

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Singing By Yourself

Singing without instruments and without anyone singing harmony is really different from singing in church with a group of people and instruments. The hymns I’m choosing are not just good hymns from a theological and musical perspective (hopefully that's a given!)—they’re hymns that sound good with just a single voice singing a melody.

Almost as importantly, I'm choosing hymns that have relatively memorable texts. Many hymn texts have an additive structure—say something about God, say another thing about God, etc.—but it’s really hard to remember a laundry list like that. It's much easier to memorize a text that is narrative driven or simpler overall.

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This Week's Hymn: "Give Me Jesus"

This week’s hymn is the Spiritual “Give Me Jesus”—my prayer for the year, or really, a prayer for all times and all places. 

"Give Me Jesus" has a thematic structure that you’ll see in many hymns. The first stanza voices a desire or action. The middle of the song makes clear that your desire is still there even when the going gets rough (or that the action—say, God's care—continues throughout trials). Then, the last stanza takes us to what seems like the furthest away from God that we can be—death—and says: God is here too. 

Death is profoundly unnatural, even through we all die. But the grave has no victory since Jesus has triumphed over death. “All will be made alive in Christ” (from 1 Cor. 15:22). Or, as we sing in the Orthodox church, “Christ has risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”

"Give Me Jesus" points toward that reality with the last stanza's "When I come to die, give me Jesus"—a desire that we expect to be fulfilled.

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Resources

Here’s a link to the lyrics and sheet music, to a choral setting of the song, and a pop version

A note on the lyrics: Many hymnals give “Dark midnight was my cry” for the second stanza, but I’ve also heard “And when I am alone” for that middle stanza. Both versions point toward the depth of sadness, loneliness, or pain where God still can—and does—find us.

Singing tip: start the song low in your register. The melody gets surprisingly high in the refrain.

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Give Me Jesus

In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise,
Give me Jesus.

Refrain
Give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus, 
Give me Jesus.
You may have all this world,
Give me Jesus.

Dark midnight was my cry,
Dark midnight was my cry,
Dark midnight was my cry,
Give me Jesus.

Refrain

Oh, when I come to die,
Oh, when I come to die,
Oh, when I come to die,
Give me Jesus.

Refrain

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