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We often boil Easter down to a Sunday school lesson on resurrection. It feels familiar and over simplified; it becomes redundant and we tune it out. Hymns bring artistic revival to the overly familiar.
Paul says “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:17-19).
Christ has indeed been raised, but I think sometimes we are still to be pitied because we live and think as though the hope of the resurrection is a fable.
The active and dynamic reality of the resurrection should transform our daily walk. We no longer live in slavery to sin. We are no longer condemned to death.
“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.” (Romans 8:11-12 NLT)
We live in the freedom of delightful obedience to our Father!
The Power of Poetry
Our Christian heritage is rich with men and women who have tasted this resurrection power and celebrate its glory with singing!
These 14 (excerpts of) Easter hymns range from the 6th to the 21st century, and they are all full of poetic beauty, declaring the best news ever.
I pray these hymns would whet your appetite for meditating on and delighting in the brilliant resurrection story this Easter. That the truths here would fortify your spirit and bolster your hope in the faithful and powerful promises of our God.
1. Praise the Savior, Now and Ever
Man’s work faileth, Christ’s availeth;Praise the Savior, Now And Ever by Venantius H.C. Fortunatus, c. 530 – c. 600 (source)
He is all our righteousness;
He, our Savior, has forever
Set us free from dire distress.
Through His merit we inherit
Light and peace and happiness.
Sin’s bonds severed, we’re delivered,
Christ has bruised the serpent’s head;
Death no longer is the stronger,
Hell itself is captive led.
Christ has risen from death’s prison,
O’er the tomb He light has shed.
2. Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem
Ye choirs of new Jerusalem,Ye Choirs Of New Jerusalem by Fulbert of Chartres, 952–1028 (source)
Your sweetest notes employ,
The Paschal victory to hymn
In strains of holy joy.
For Judah’s Lion bursts His chains,
Crushing the serpent’s head;
And cries aloud through death’s domains
To wake the imprisoned dead.
From hell’s devouring jaws the prey
Alone our Leader bore;
His ransomed hosts pursue their way
Where Jesus goes before.
3. Far Be Sorrow, Tears, and Sighing
Vain the foe’s despair and madness!Far Be Sorrow, Tears, and Sighing by author unknown, 13th century or later (source)
See the dayspring of our gladness!
Slaves no more of Satan we;
Children, by the Son set free;
Rise, for life with death has striven,
All the snares of hell are riven,
Rise and claim the victory.
4. Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands
No son of man could conquer Death, such mischief sin had wrought us,
For innocence dwelt not on earth, and therefore Death had brought us
Into thralldom from of old and ever grew more strong and bold
And kept us in his bondage. Alleluia!
But Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, to our low state descended,
The cause of Death He has undone, his power forever ended,
Ruined all his right and claim and left him nothing but the name,
His sting is lost forever. Alleluia!
Then let us feast this Easter day on the true Bread of heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away the old and wicked leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed; He is our Meat and Drink indeed;Christ Jesus Lay In Death’s Strong Bands by Martin Luther, 1524 (source)
Faith lives upon no other! Alleluia!
5. Lift Up Your Hearts, Ye People
Now let the earth be joyfulLift Up Your Hearts, Ye People by Paul Gerhardt, 1653 (source)
In springtime’s bright array,
Let hearts downcast and lonely
Rejoice this Easter day;
The grave hast lost its triumph,
And death has lost its sting,
O, sing in exultation
To Christ, your risen King!
6. Blest Morning, Whose Young Dawning Rays
In the cold prison of a tombBlest Morning, Whose Young Dawning Rays by Isaac Watts, 1707 (source)
The dead Redeemer lay,
Till the revolving skies had brought
The third, th’appointed day.
Hell and the grave unite their force
To hold our God in vain;
The sleeping Conqueror arose,
And burst their feeble chain.
7. Morning Breaks Upon the Tomb
Ye who are of death afraidMorning Breaks Upon the Tomb by William Bengo Collyer, 1812 (source)
Triumph in the scattered shade.
Drive your anxious cares away;
See the place where Jesus lay.
Christians, dry your flowing tears
Chase your unbelieving fears;
Look on His deserted grave,
Doubt no more His power to save.
8. Lift Your Glad Voices
Lift your glad voices in triumph on high,Lift Your Glad Voices by Henry Ware, 1817 (source)
For Jesus hath risen, and man cannot die;
Vain were the terrors that gathered around Him,
And short the dominion of death and the grave;
He burst from the fetters of darkness that bound Him,
Resplendent in glory to live and to save!
Loud was the chorus of angels on high,
The Savior hath risen, and man shall not die.
Glory to God, in full anthems of joy;
The being He gave us death cannot destroy:
Sad were the life we must part with tomorrow,
If tears were our birthright, and death were our end;
But Jesus hath cheered the dark valley of sorrow,
And bade us, immortal, to Heaven ascend:
Lift then your voices in triumph on high,
For Jesus hath risen, and man shall not die.
9. Resting From His Work Today
Late at even there was seen
Watching long the Magdalene;
Early, ere the break of day,
Sorrowful she took her way
To the holy garden glade,
Where her buried Lord was laid.
So with Thee, till life shall end,Resting From His Work Today by Thomas Whytehead, 1842 (source)
I would solemn vigil spend:
Let me hew Thee, Lord, a shrine
In this rocky heart of mine,
Where in pure embalmèd cell,
None but Thou may ever dwell.
Myrrh and spices will I bring,
True affection’s offering;
Close the doors from sight and sound
Of the busy world around;
And in patient watch remain
Till my Lord appear again.
10. Awake, Glad Soul, Awake, Awake
Awake, glad soul! Awake! Awake!
Thy Lord has risen long;
Go to His grave, and with thee take
Both tuneful heart and song.
The shade and gloom of life are fled
This resurrection day;
Henceforth in Christ are no more dead,
The grave hath no more prey.
And every bird and every tree,
And every opening flower,
Proclaim His glorious victory,
His resurrection power.
The folds are glad, the fields rejoice,
With vernal beauty spread,
The little hills lift up their voice
And shout that death is dead.
Then wake, glad heart! awake! awakeAwake, Glad Soul, Awake, Awake by John S. B. Monsell, 1857 (source)
And seek Thy risen Lord;
Joy in His resurrection take,
And comfort in His Word.
And let thy life, through all its ways,
One long thanksgiving be:
Its theme of joy, its song of praise
Christ died, and rose for me.
11. The Lord of Life Is Risen, Sing Easter Heralds
Around Thy tomb, O Jesus,
How sweet the Easter breath;
Hear we not in the breezes,
“Where is thy sting, O death?”
Dark hell flies in commotion,
The heavens their anthems sing;
While far o’er earth and ocean
Glad hallelujahs ring!
O publish this salvation,
Ye heralds, through the earth,
To every buried nation
Proclaim the day of birth!
Till, rising from their slumbers,
In long and ancient night
The countless heathen numbers
Shall hail the Easter light.
Hail, hail, our Jesus risen!The Lord of Life Is Risen, Sing Easter Heralds by Johann Peter Lange, 1800’s (source)
Sing, ransomed brethren, sing!
Through death’s dark, gloomy prison
Let Easter chorals ring!
Haste, haste, ye captive legions,
Accept your glad reprieve;
Come forth from sin’s dark regions;
In Jesus’ kingdom live!
12. O Voice of the Beloved
Our Easter Sun is risen!O Voice of the Beloved by Jackson Mason, 1889 (source)
And yet we slumber long,
And need Thy Dove’s sweet pleading
To waken prayer and song.
Oh breathe upon our deadness,
Oh shine upon our gloom;
Lord, let us feel Thy presence
And rise and live and bloom.
13. The Battle of Calvary
Writhing under Law’s most fearsome
Curse, ruined, lost, polluted, wrecked;
Languishing in Satan’s prison
Lie the souls of God’s elect.
At the Cross—desire of Hell!—
Christ gives up that final Breath:
Now, at last, the choicest Captive
Tastes the mortal sting of Death!
Satan smiles in seeming triumph,The Battle of Calvary by Neil Barham, 2005 (source)
Reaching out, his Prize to take.
Three brief days all Hell rejoices—
Then the stone begins to shake!
14. More Than Conquerors
This is one of my favorite songs. A modern hymn, so to speak. Give it a listen if you haven’t heard this one!
Oh, Your resurrection power
Burns like fire in my heart
When waters rise
I lift my eyes
Up to Your throne
We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror
I will sing into the night
Christ is risen and on high
Greater is He
Living in me
Than in the world
No surrender, no retreatMore Than Conquerors by Rend Collective, 2014 (source)
We are free and we’re redeemed
We will declare
You are the hope
If you are looking for a Christ-centered children’s resource this Easter, I highly recommend this book, The Donkey Who Carried a King, by R.C. Sproul. It focuses on the crucifixion from the perspective of Davey the Donkey. I totally cried my face off while reading it.