Last Sunday the BBC religious programme Songs of Praise announced the results of its poll to find the nation’s favourite hymn of 2019. The top ten songs chosen by the viewers were:
2. How Great Thou Art
3. In Christ Alone
4. Dear Lord and Father Of Mankind
5. Abide With Me
6. I Vow to Thee My Country
7. Guide Me Oh Thou Great Redeemer
8. Amazing Grace
9. Be Still For The Presence Of The Lord
10. I The Lord Of Sea and Sky
One of the most interesting aspects of this poll is the lack of modern songs. The most recent one is found in third position: In Christ Alone, written in 2001 by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. I was fully expecting 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman to feature strongly, but it was not to be. Also I was surprised to see none of Graham Kendrick’s songs in the top ten.
The results of the poll though obviously reflect the demographics of those who watch Songs of Praise. Although I occasionally watch it, I did not personally vote in the poll. The reason being that I did not know of its existence!
Thinking about the poll begs the question: what makes a good hymn? For some a good tune is the most important aspect. Whilst others would give preference to the words. I personally think that the words are the most important ingredient of the hymn, although I would also want a good tune too. There are two main reasons why I would favour the words over the tune:
1. Well written hymns can help teach us theological truths. I have heard it said that Charles Wesley used to write his hymns to help teach theology to people. This was a great way of helping others to remember scriptural truths as not everyone could read the scriptures for themselves during the 18th century. One of the things I like about the songs of Stuart Townend is that they are very rich theologically.
2. Well written hymns can enhance our worship of God. There are times when we might struggle to put into words the greatness of God and our love for Him. This is why the hymn How Great Thou Art is a favourite of mine. The words declare the wonder and greatness of God. Our response to the marvellous truths written in the verses is to worship God with all our soul in the rousing chorus.
Whatever your favourite hymn might be, let the lyrics remind you of the deep truths of God and use them to worship Him in a deep and meaningful way.