Tonight at my children’s brass band rehearsal they played this beautiful hymn, so I’m just going to pen a few thoughts about it.
“Abide with Me” is a Christian hymn by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte most often sung to English composer William Henry Monk’s tune entitled “Eventide”. Lyte wrote the poem in 1847 and set it to music while he lay dying from tuberculosis; he survived only a further three weeks after its completion.
The definition of “abide” is to accept or bear (someone or something bad, unpleasant, etc.),to stay or live somewhere or to remain or continue.
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide
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.
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 dark 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.
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There are three additional verses which originally followed verse 2 (rarely used after the nineteenth century)
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, and thus bide 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.
This beautiful hymn is often sung at funerals; it was very popular in the trenches of the First World War, and was sung by Nurse Edith Cavell the night before the Germans shot her for helping British soldiers to escape from occupied Belgium. It has been played at a few Royal Weddings and was played at Ground Zero on September 21st, 2001 by a Salvation Army band during the commemoration of the September 11th attacks.Traditionally the first verse is always sung at the opening of the FA Cup.
God is there when other helpers fail and other comforts flee. When we are facing eternity, there will only be God – there won’t be our earthly comforts, our mobile phones, our nice food, our social media. There will only be God. As we face our own mortality we realise this. The writer is looking into eternity and asking God to abide with him, to stay with him. All the joys and glories that the man has experienced have faded away in the light of eternity. He celebrates the God who never changes – our bodies grow old, relationships change, society changes – but God never changes.
God is our guide and stay – through cloud and sunshine He will abide with us. He is the one who steadies us through life’s turbulent times. He is our true North.
“Finding true north is essential for accurate navigation.
Hence the metaphor. In life’s journey we are often uncertain where we stand, where we are going and what is the right path for us personally. Knowing our true north would enable us to follow the right path.” (from Websters online) When we know God personally and let Him guide us He will lead us in the right way to go.
With God in our corner, we need not fear our enemies and death and the grave have no victory over us. The Bible says that because of Jesus’ death on the cross He overcame the power of sin and death. We have that assurance that in death, just like in life, we are with God and He is with us. Heavens morning breaks – our death signifies our new life starting in Heaven. Our life on earth is classed as vain shadows, compared to the glory of eternity with God.
As Christians, God is with us in life, in death and in Heaven for all eternity.
“Not a brief glance” etc. The writer doesn’t want the Lord to sojourn, just visit him, but to abide with him – to have that same personal relationship as Jesus had with His disciples.
“Come not in terrors, as the King of Kings” – Jesus will be coming to us in judgement or as our Saviour. That is our choice. If we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour it will be the latter. If Jesus is our Saviour we have nothing to fear – He will come to us as one kind and good with healing in His wings.
Today let us use this song as our prayer – that God will abide with us and give us that assurance of His continual presence in our lives, both now and for eternity.