Once in Royal David’s City

Growing up in the Anglican tradition, I came to know the carol “Once in Royal David’s City” as the carol that kicked off a Lessons and Carols service. A child always sang the first verse and then the congregation joined in on the second verse. I didn’t realize until later in my life that the carol was actually written as a poem for children by Cecil Alexander but had made its way into the broader hymn repertoire of the church.

In my first few years leading contemporary services of lessons and carols I always avoided this carol because I wasn’t sure it would work in that context. A few years ago I started to use it and was glad I did. I ended up writing a new verse (verse 4) to get into a bit more detail about why Jesus came.

We recently recorded my arrangement of this carol as the opening track on our Advent EP, “For Our Salvation“, with full band, a string section (orchestrated and produced by my friend Joshua Spacht), and children’s choir conducted by my sister-in-law, Caroline Crocker.

I wanted to offer it as a free download in case you’d like to try it with your congregation.

You can listen to it here: 

Click here for the chord chart.
Click here for the free mp3.
And here’s the lyric video.

He Giveth More Grace: New Arrangement

1Several weeks ago, I saw that our September sermon series was going to focus on the generosity of God. As I was thinking what song of response would work one Sunday, the closing words of an old hymn came to my mind: “for out of his infinite riches in Jesus / He giveth, and giveth and giveth again”. I looked up the hymn, entitled “He Giveth More Grace” and was struck by the text:

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace

When we have exhausted our store of endurance
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision
Our God ever yearns His resources to share
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure
His power no boundary known unto men
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again

This hymn was written by Annie Johnson Flint. She was orphaned by the age of 6, and became so crippled by arthritis that she couldn’t walk. Her arthritis prevented her from becoming a pianist like she had hoped, so she became a poet, and when she couldn’t open her hands to type, she would use her knuckles on the typewriter. An amazing story.

What I love about this hymn is the way it presents God’s generous grace. It can never be exhausted. It can never even begin to be exhausted. It is utterly and completely boundless. This is the kind of good news our congregations need to hear. This is like water in a barren desert.

I didn’t know the original tune for this hymn, so I took that as an opportunity to write a simple melody and arrangement. We sang it this past Sunday at my church and judging from all the questions and emails I got about it, it struck a nerve with people and was a blessing.

I’m sharing the rough demo with you, as well as a chord chart, since my guess is that if your congregation doesn’t know this hymn, they might be affected by the truth it proclaims just like mine was.


Chord chart

“Rest Easy” by Andrew Peterson

I’ve been a huge fan of Andrew Peterson ever since I heard his masterpiece of a CD called Behold the Lamb of God in 2005. He has a rare gift of being able to craft songs that are full of lyrical and theological depth, musical creativity, and a pastoral heart. Plus he really loves his wife and kids.

Andrew released a new CD in late August called Light for the Lost Boy. I wanted to highlight one of the songs off this CD called “Rest Easy”. You can listen to it here:

It’s not a congregational song (i.e. you wouldn’t expect your congregation to sing along). But if you’re looking for a song to sing over your congregation as a gospel-soaked blessing, this should be one you add to your repertoire as soon as possible. Here are the lyrics:

You are not alone
I will always be with you
Even to the end

You don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
So you can rest easy

So do not be afraid
Nothing, nothing in the world
Can come between us now

So you don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
So you can rest easy

You work so hard to wear yourself down
And you’re running like a rodeo clown
You’re smiling like you’re scared to death
You’re out of faith and all out of breath
You’re so afraid you’ve got nowhere left to go
Well, you are not alone
I will always be with you

You don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
You can rest easy

We sang this song this past Sunday at my church as the offering song just before communion. When it was over, all I said was “isn’t this good news?” The congregation responded “yes!” Then I said “this is why we can stand and sing ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow…'” and we sang the Doxology together.

I strongly recommend all of Andrew Peterson’s albums to you for your own listening and edification, and also to provide you with special songs throughout the year to sing in your services. This song is one of his best. It’s simple, to-the-point, and almost shocking in its statement of assurance of God’s love. And that’s why I like it so much!

Here’s Andrew sharing the story behind the song (it’s worth watching the whole thing:

And you can download the song for free at Desiring God’s website.

What Songs Work Well for Advent?

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent is based off of the Latin word “adventus” and literally means “coming”. We are expectantly awaiting the celebration of Jesus’ coming on Christmas, and we’re expectantly awaiting his coming in glory. It’s a very cool season and provides congregations several weeks to express our cries of “how long”? Not only “how long until we can finally sing Christmas carols and open presents?” but “how long until you finally come back, Jesus?”

Two years ago I wrote some posts on songs that work well in Advent.

The first post had to do with “what to do with Advent” and some good hymns to sing. The second post had suggestions of newer, more contemporary songs that work congregationally. The third post had a couple of songs that worked as special/not congregational songs.

Here are some other songs I’ve become aware of that might work during Advent.

Soon (Brooke Ligertwood)
– Slow, tender song about when we will finally see Jesus
– Either a congregational song or a solo, but probably better as a solo
– “Soon and very soon, my King is coming, clothed in righteousness and crowned with love…”
– You can listen to the whole song, read the lyrics, and download the music here

All to Us (Redman/Maher/Reeves/Tomlin)
– Slow/midtempo song
– Either as a congregational song or a solo
– The recorded key of C is too high. I find A to be better
– “We are waiting on you, Jesus”. “When this passing world is over, we will see You face to face…”
– You can listen to the whole song, read the lyrics, and download the sheet music for free here

We Belong to the Day (Mike Morrow)
– Midtempo song
– Either as a congregational song or a solo
– “We belong to the day, to the day that is to come when the night falls away and our Savior will return…”
– Bob Kauflin featured this song on Worship Matters in June and linked to free downloads of the recording and the music

How Long? (The Reckoning) (Andrew Peterson)
– An upbeat song of lament/longing for Jesus to return
– From his excellent CD, “Counting Stars”
– Would work as a special (not congregational) song
– “How long until this curtain is lifted? How long is this the song that we sing? How long until the reckoning?”
– Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition featured this song last year. Click here to listen to the song and read the lyrics.

God With Us (Jamie Brown)
– Slow song
– OK, I wasn’t going to share this song because (a) the recording is awful and (b) I don’t want to push my own stuff. But, hey it’s free, you don’t have to like it, and it it’s helpful, then great
– The verses describe different people and situations that look hopeless, but actually “God with us”, Jesus, is right there in the middle
– Would work as a special (not congregational) song
– A female vocalists should sing the response part in the chorus. But again, this recording is so bad, from several years ago, that I tried to take care of both parts
– The lyrics are below the audio player

In the long, cold winter of waiting,
Every day a new door is closed
No job for so long and no money
Every letter, every call, a new “no”
God with us

She has cried, she has prayed for a husband
Still she lies in her bed all alone
Every Christmas, every birthday, every morning
Every baby – another one that’s not her own
God with us

Surely he has borne our griefs (God with us)
He has carried all our sorrows (God with us)
His chastisement brought us peace (God with us)
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow
God with us

He has lost his ability to fight it}
It has stained every corner of his mind
He is drowning in the darkness in private
Every click – a step back from his bride
God with us   (chorus)

The baby in her womb is not her husband’s
They have fled from their home to hide
But she believes what the angel told her
That she would bear the Son of the Most High: God with us

Surely he will bear our griefs (God with us)
He will carry all our sorrows (God with us)
His chastisement will bring us peace (God with us)
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow
God with us

Jamie Brown. © 2011 Worthily Magnify Music. CCLI Song # 6026949.


Song Recommendation: Grace is Not Earned

A few months ago I came across this new song from Kate Simmons and wanted to recommend it to you. It’s called “Grace is Not Earned”.

Here are the lyrics:

Grace is not earned, nor deserved,
It is a gift from God.
Saved by Your mercy alone,
Rescued by Your great love.
Grace is the heart of the Father,
Grace is the gift of the Son,
Grace is the work of the Spirit,
Revealing the wonder of an amazing God.

You know how often I fail
And all that I can’t undo,
Stains I’ve no means to erase,
How can I stand before You?
Christ takes the cross on His shoulders,
Steadfast to Calvary’s hill,
Leaving my sin in the grave
He rises, the conquering Son,
Such amazing love!

Raised by Your life, now in Christ,
Chosen and dearly loved,
I am now seen through Your eyes:
Righteous through Jesus’ blood!
Ransomed, restored and forgiven,
My sins are remembered no more!
Though still I’ll stumble, You’ll keep me.
By grace, I’ll continue on in unending love!

Oh the mercy, oh the mercy of our God, of our God. (repeat)

Kate Simmonds. © 2010 Phat Music / Administered by Song Solutions CopyCare. 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 1QG England. info@songsolutions.org

Here’s a video of Kate singing the song:

What I like about the song:
– It says things in a new way. I love the line: “Grace is the heart of the Father, grace is the gift of the Son, grace is the work of the Spirit…” So good.
– It points us to the finished work of Christ on the cross and what that means for us.
– It’s clear. You can’t read the lyrics of this song and wonder what it means.
– It teaches. The very first line is key: “Grace is not earned, nor deserved, it is a gift from God”. This is worth singing about.

You can purchase the mp3 and PDF of the music here.