I'm sure that many would think that this is a semi-odd choice for all-time favorite hymn.
My dad was a Congregational (now United Church of Christ) minister so I was pretty regular in church attendance in my younger years.
Some Sunday evenings, he would preach on a circuit and I'd go with him to some of these tiny churches. The people there, mostly older folks, liked the old hymns best - Fanny Crosby and so on.
So, some of my "favorite hymns" are going to be those that I sang when I was out with my Dad. Fond memories from long ago.
In 1986 I was finally diagnosed with Cushing's after struggling with doctors and trying to get them to test for about 5 years. I was going to go into the NIH (National Institutes of Health) in Bethesda, MD for final testing and then-experimental pituitary surgery.
I was terrified and sure that I wouldn't survive the surgery.
Somehow, I found a 3-tape set of Readers Digest Hymns and songs of Inspiration and ordered that. The set came just before I went to NIH and I had it with me.
At NIH I set up a daily "routine" of sorts and listening to these tapes was a very important part of my day and helped me get through the ordeal of more testing, surgery, post-op and more.
When I had my kidney cancer surgery, the tapes were long broken, but I had replaced all the songs - this time on my iPod.
Abide With Me was on this tape set and it remains a favorite to this day. Whenever we have an opportunity in church to pick a favorite, my hand always shoots up and I request page 700. When someone in one of my handbell groups moves away, we always sign a hymnbook and give it to them. I sign page 700.
I think that many people would probably think that this hymn is depressing. Maybe it is but to me it signifies times in my life when I thought I might die and I was so comforted by the sentiments here.
This hymn is often associated with funeral services and has given hope and comfort to so many over the years - me included.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
Abide With Me
Words: Henry F. Lyte, 1847.
Music: Eventide, William H. Monk, 1861. Mrs. Monk described the setting:
This tune was written at a time of great sorrow—when together we watched, as we did daily, the glories of the setting sun. As the last golden ray faded, he took some paper and penciled that tune which has gone all over the earth.
Lyte was inspired to write this hymn as he was dying of tuberculosis; he finished it the Sunday he gave his farewell sermon in the parish he served so many years. The next day, he left for Italy to regain his health. He didn’t make it, though—he died in Nice, France, three weeks after writing these words. Here is an excerpt from his farewell sermon:
O brethren, I stand here among you today, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to impress it upon you, and induce you to prepare for that solemn hour which must come to all, by a timely acquaintance with the death of Christ.
For over a century, the bells of his church at All Saints in Lower Brixham, Devonshire, have rung out “Abide with Me” daily. The hymn was sung at the wedding of King George VI, at the wedding of his daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth II, and at the funeral of Nobel peace prize winner Mother Teresa of Calcutta in1997.
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, 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.
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.