At the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics the Scottish singer, Emeli Sandé , sang a song in memory of the London 7/7 bombings that has been popular at various different events throughout history having its origins in the church. The hymn, ‘Abide With Me’, is a prayer asking God to remain with the speaker throughout life, through trial and through death. The lyrics are as follows:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Still sung in the old English style that it was originally written in 1847, the song was originally a poem written by the Scottish Anglican, Henry Francis Lyte. He finished the poem and set it to music as he lay dying from tuberculosis and managed to live on three weeks longer after its completion. As Emeli sang the song at the London Olympics I am certain that many of the listeners and those moved by its stirring lyrics and melody probably had no idea of the origin of the song. As the writer lies dying in his deathbed, he reaches out to God, obviously not in an expression of desperation, but with a conviction that he needs to be close to his maker and creator, no matter what the circumstance. He recognizes that God has given him joys on earth that are now growing dim and that change and decay are creeping in on him, but still recognizes that God ‘changes not’.
He understands that God is awesome and terrifying but is also kind and good and a friend of sinners. The amazing depth of the revelation of God’s supreme nature yet gentle loving personality is in itself a marvel. Many of us tend to only focus on our Father’s strict nature, emphasizing His holiness and pointing out each others sins as though that will make us closer to God if we somehow go on a fear-fest. The incredible balance seen in the writers poem can only be understood as a person who knew our Fathers nature in its totality. What father would not discipline his children if they went out of line? Yet a loving father will also welcome back the prodigal child! That same loving father also has healing in His wings and through the cross has a promise of eternal life.
As people sing this song at the FA cup final, at the Rugby League Challenge Cup finals and at other sporting events, the song may have different meanings to those singing it, some just grateful to be at those events and fueling their sense of nostalgia. There may be the hope that their team will win and they sing this prayer song. I hope that this song will sow the seed of the desire for Gods presence in our lives on a daily basis so that we do not wait to be on our deathbeds to seek His love and grace. He longs to abide with us through every situation, good or bad.
Be blessed! Be encouraged! Be-lieve!