Oh, Sing to the Lord!
When I first started teaching a few years ago, (okay, many years ago), my first classroom had a piano in it. My classroom was not an anomaly in that it had a piano. Many of our classrooms in our Lutheran schools back then had pianos for the purpose of singing during classroom devotions and for teaching music class. Music classes were often taught by the classroom teacher in those years. It was part of my teaching assignment in my first call, even though I was a secondary history major. I wasn’t quite sure that my piano playing skills I learned in Keyboard I and II at Concordia Teachers College in River Forest (now Concordia University Chicago), were up to the challenge, even though I did play For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow fairly well with both hands! Back in those days, it was required of students enrolled in the Lutheran teacher’s program to take keyboarding classes if they didn’t already know how to play the piano. Since I loved to sing with my students as a part of our morning devotions, it was going to be a cappella or find someone who had piano skills much better than mine. Fortunately, I was blessed with students who, at the junior high/middle school level, were very talented piano players and were more than willing to play. Most often, our singing took the form of hymns from our Lutheran Hymnal which back then was TLH—The Lutheran Hymnal. As years passed, the singing included not only hymns but also incorporated some contemporary worship songs along with hymns. Hymnals also changed from TLH to Lutheran Worship to the Lutheran Service Book. As my classroom changed to one without a piano, singing also changed to being done mostly a cappella while occasionally using music recordings/videos of hymns/songs. (1)
It was during Advent and other major festivals of the church year that I most enjoyed singing hymns. I found through the years that this was also true of my students, as evidenced on the days where we spent time singing more than one hymn/song during our opening devotions. I gave my students the opportunity to select hymns/songs they wanted to sing. Surprisingly, most of the time, they chose a hymn which was a favorite of theirs.
Hymns are a great way of helping students understand the Bible stories and texts on which they were based. As Luther said, it helped people “sing the Scriptures.” Jeff Burkart, in his blog of July 5, 2022, “Using Hymns to Teach the Faith Part III,” summed up the value of hymns in these words: “Hymns are powerful proclaimers of scriptural stories, Bible passages, doctrine, and the Gospel of Christ through poetic rhythm and rhyme, and music that serves to amplify their texts. They bear witnesses to the Christian faith and have served the Church throughout the ages as a means through which the Good News is proclaimed…” Singing hymns, especially during the major festival seasons, helps enrich and deepen students’ understanding and celebration of these seasons.
With such rich hymnody that is available, I encourage everyone to make hymns and carols a part of their worship and celebrations during this Advent and Christmas season as well as throughout the remainder of the school year.
Some great thoughts and ideas on utilizing hymns in your classrooms and schools can be found in the series of Jeff Burkart’s blogs “Using Hymns to Teach the Faith” Parts I-IV from April to September 2022, which can be found at LEAven Blog – Worship
(1) Listed below are several free resources of audio files of many hymns and carols that can be used to accompany your singing and can be played from the site or downloaded as an MP3:
The Hymnal Project A Michigan District Resource – Most of the audio files are piano accompaniment with singers.
Hymns Without Words Organ, piano, and other instrumental accompaniments
Hymnary.org Organ and piano accompaniments available
The Open Hymnal Project Piano accompaniments
YouTube also can be searched for music and/or words of worship hymns and songs.
Feel free to share any additional resources of hymn and song accompaniments!