Dear North American Baptist family,
It is with great joy that I enter into these days of reflection on the death and resurrection of our Savior with you. I would consider it a grand celebration if the entire NAB family could be in one place praising God together and encouraging each other on an Easter morning. But though we will worship in various locations this weekend, know that my heart and mind are with you, praying that you will worship God in full abandonment and know His resurrection power in your lives.
As we enter our churches on Easter morning, you and I will join hundreds of thousands of Baptists throughout the English-speaking world who will rise and sing an anthem of commemoration and celebration that begins with a direct proclamation—“Christ the Lord is risen today.”
The text of this Easter hymn finds its origins in fourteenth century Latin verses. After various modifications throughout the years of the church, John and Charles Wesley published a version of the hymn in 1739 quite similar to our modern one, though two distinct differences are evident between the Wesleys’ version and our modern one. First, their version includes eleven total verses, while modern worshipers tend to only sing four or six verses of the hymn (or only one if the worship leader is anticipating an especially long Easter sermon). Second, the Wesleys’ version does not include the word alleluia that is sprinkled throughout the modern rendering.
The word alleluia, added to the hymn by an unknown editor in later years, is the Greek form of the Hebrew word hallelujah, which comes from two Hebrew components that might be simply translated, “praise God.”
In essence then, we as modern singers have taken the glorious resurrection narration in the poetry of the hymn and added a regular and resounding “praise God.” In this back and forth of narration and praise, we as the church of Christ both proclaim the resurrection of Jesus—“Christ the Lord is risen today”—and burst forth with adoration and praise—“alleluia.”
As North American Baptists, I long that we together would enter this Easter of 2017 knowing that our world so needs God’s reconciling work. In days of suffering and war, when Christian churches are bombed and fellow Christians are killed for their faith, our hearts must ache for this world that is stained with rebellion and sin. Our hope, and the hope of this world, is found through grace by faith in Christ alone. May we sing the story of the resurrected Lord on Easter, loudly and triumphantly, praising our Lord and Savior who is risen indeed!
For His glory alone,
North American Baptist Conference
P.S. All eleven verses are below. Spend a few moments reading them and reminding yourself of our victorious Christ. When finished, say a breath of alleluia to our King.
1. “Christ the Lord is ris’n to-day,”
Sons of Men and Angels say!
Raise your Joys and Triumphs high,
Sing ye Heav’ns, and Earth reply.
2. Love’s Redeeming Work is done,
Fought the Fight, the Battle won,
Lo! our Sun’s Eclipse is o’er,
Lo! He sets in Blood no more.
3. Vain the Stone, the Watch, the Seal;
Christ hath burst the Gates of Hell!
Death in vain forbids his Rise:
Christ hath open’d Paradise!
4. Lives again our glorious King,
Where, O Death, is now thy Sting?
Once He died our Souls to save,
Where thy Victory, O Grave?
5. Soar we now, where Christ has led,
Following our Exalted Head,
Made like Him, like Him we rise:
Ours the Cross; the Grave; the Skies.
6. What tho’ once we perish’d All,
Partners of our Parent’s Fall,
Second Life we All receive,
In our Heav’nly Adam live.
7. Ris’n with Him, we upward move,
Still we seek the Things above,
Still pursue, and kiss the Son,
Seated on his Father’s Throne;
8. Scarce on Earth a Thought bestow,
Dead to all we leave below,
Heav’n our Aim, and lov’d Abode,
Hid our Life with Christ in God!
9. Hid; ’till Christ our Life appear,
Glorious in his Members here:
Join’d to Him, we then shall shine
All Immortal, all Divine!
10. Hail the Lord of Earth and Heav’n!
Praise to Thee by both be giv’n:
Thee we greet Triumphant now;
Hail the Resurrection Thou!
11. King of Glory, Soul of Bliss,
Everlasting Life is This,
Thee to know, thy Pow’r to prove,
Thus to sing, and thus to love!