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Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The text contains some of the most familiar Easter themes: all creatures rejoice in Christ's resurrection (st. 1); the work of redemption is complete (st. 2); death is vanquished (st. 3); we have new life in Christ now (st. 4); we praise the victorious Christ (st. 5). The "alleluias," which remind us of the ancient Easter greeting, do more than interrupt the textual flow: they provide the framework for praising God with each line of text. 
 
Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Easter hymns accomplish three functions: they recount the Easter narrative, proclaim our Easter hope, and celebrate our joy at Christ’s resurrection. This hymn is built on the professions of Easter truths that are expressed primarily in Heidelberg Catechism. Note especially the following:
  • Lord’s Day 17, Question and Answer 45 declares that Christ’s resurrection makes us share in Christ’s righteousness, raises us to a new life by his power, and is a sure pledge to us of our resurrection.
  • Lord’s Day 22, Question and Answer 57 comforts us to know that not only our soul but “also my very flesh will be raised by the power of God, reunited with my soul, and made like Christ’s glorious body.”
  • Lord’s Day 22, Question and Answer 58 says that it may be a comfort to know that while experiencing the beginning of eternal joy now, “after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forever.”
In addition, Our Song of Hope, stanza 5 professes: “On the day of the resurrection, the tomb was empty; His disciples saw Him; death was defeated; new life had come. God’s purpose for the world was sealed.”

Hymn Story/Background

Charles Wesley composed this "Hymn for Easter Day" in eleven stanzas. First sung at the famous Foundry Meeting House, the text was published in Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739). The "alleluia" responses, reflecting ancient Jewish and Christian practice, were added by later editors to fit the tune. Wesley's stanzas 1-2a and 3b-6 are included.
 
The text contains some of the most familiar Easter themes: all creatures rejoice in Christ's resurrection (st. 1); the work of redemption is complete (st. 2); death is vanquished (st. 3); we have new life in Christ now (st. 4); we praise the victorious Christ (st. 5). The "alleluias," which remind us of the ancient Easter greeting, do more than interrupt the textual flow: they provide the framework for praising God with each line of text.
 
EASTER HYMN originally appeared in the John Walsh collection Lyra Davidica (1708) as a rather florid tune. Tempered to its present version by John Arnold in his Compleat Psalmodist (1749), EASTER HYMN is now one of the best and most joyous Easter tunes.
 
Wonderfully decorating the "alleluias," the melismas add a depth to our praise that spoken "alleluia" cannot approximate (and that can be exceeded only by dancing such "alleluias"). The structure of text and music invites antiphonal performance. Try having small groups sing Wesley's words and the entire group sing the "alleluias." If the congregation wants to sing the entire hymn–and it often does–organists could point out the antiphonal character by playing the regular lines with a lighter accompaniment or unison melody on some stanzas, and by changing to full organ and/or harmony for the "alleluias."
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Several members of the Wesley family are significant figures in the history of English hymnody, and none more so than Charles Wesley (b. Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, 1707; d. Marylebone, London, England, 1788). Charles was the eighteenth child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, who educated him when he was young. After attending Westminster School, he studied at Christ Church College, Oxford. It was there that he and George Whitefield formed the Oxford "Holy Club," which Wesley's brother John soon joined. Their purpose was to study the Bible in a disciplined manner, to improve Christian worship and the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and to help the needy. Because of their methods for observing the Christian life, they earned the name “Methodists.”
 
Charles Wesley was ordained a minister in the Church of England in 1735 but found spiritual conditions in the church deplorable. Charles and John served briefly as missionaries to the British colony in Georgia. Enroute they came upon a group of Moravian missionaries, whose spirituality impressed the Wesleys. They returned to England, and, strongly influenced by the ministry of the Moravians, both Charles and John had conversion experiences in 1738. The brothers began preaching at revival meetings, often outdoors. These meetings were pivotal in the mid-eighteenth-century "Great Awakening" in England.
 
Though neither Charles nor John Wesley ever left the Church of England them­selves, they are the founders of Methodism. Charles wrote some sixty-five hundred hymns, which were published in sixty-four volumes during his lifetime; these include Collection of Psalms and Hymns (1741), Hymns on the Lord's Supper ( 1 745), Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1753), and Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists (1780). Charles's hymns are famous for their frequent quotations and allusions from the Bible, for their creedal orthodoxy and their subjective expression of Christian living, and for their use of some forty-five different meters, which inspired new hymn tunes in England. Numerous hymn texts by Wesley are standard entries in most modern hymnals; fourteen are included in the Psalter Hymnal, 1987.
 
Charles's elder brother John also studied at Christ Church College, Oxford, and was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1728. A tutor at Lincoln College in Oxford from 1729 to 1735, Wesley became the leader of the Oxford "Holy Club" mentioned above. After his contact with the Moravian missionaries, Wesley began translating Moravian hymns from German and published his first hymnal, Collection of Psalms and Hymns, in Charleston, South Carolina (1737); this hymnal was the first English hymnal ever published for use in worship. Upon his return to England in 1738 Wesley "felt his heart strangely warmed" at a meeting on Aldersgate Street, London, when Peter Bohler, a Moravian, read from Martin Luther's preface to his commentary on the epistle to the Romans. It was at that meeting that John received the assurance that Christ had truly taken away his sins. That conversion experience (followed a few days later by a similar experience by his brother Charles) led to his becoming the great itinerant evangelist and administrator of the Methodist "societies," which would eventually become the Methodist Church. An Anglican all his life, John Wesley wished to reform the Church of England and regretted the need to found a new denomina­tion. Most of the hymnals he prepared with his brother Charles were intended for Christians in all denominations; their Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists (1780) is one of the few specifically so designated. John was not only a great preacher and organizer, he was also a prolific author, editor, and translator. He translat­ed many classic texts, wrote grammars and dictionaries, and edited the works of John Bunyan and Richard Baxter. In hymnody he is best known for his translation of selec­tions from the German hymnals of Johann Cruger ('Jesus, thy boundless love to me"), Freylinghausen, and von Zinzendorf ('Jesus, thy blood and righteousness"), and for his famous "Directions for Singing," which are still printed in Methodist hymnals. Most significant, however, is his well-known strong hand in editing and often strengthening his brother Charles's hymn texts before they copublished them in their numerous hymnals.

Song Notes

In every worship service, the words we say and the actions we participate in are somehow shaping us. Perhaps without even being aware of it, worship is doing something to us – it’s forming habits and language inside of us to both teach us why we are in relationship with God, and how to be in relationship with God. One practice that many liturgists and hymn authors have brought into worship is describing an event that happened in the past (usually a moment from the Gospel story) as if it were happening today, in order to instill in us the understanding that, just as God worked in the lives of people two thousand years ago, he is still working today.
 
The hymn “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” is a perfect example of this. Right in the title is an indicator of the present tense: the word “is.” As we sing this song, we are first brought back two millennia as “witnesses” of the resurrection, and then we are also made aware that though the actual event of the resurrection happened once, it is in a sense an on-going event with ever-present effects. We are called today to live out of the resurrection, to follow our risen Lord in newness of life, and to ever lift our “Alleluias” in praise.
— Laura de Jong