Christ Arose

Low in the grace He lay,Jesus, my Saviour!
Waiting the coming day,Jesus, my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign;
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Vainly they watched His bed,
Jesus, my Savior!

Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Saviour,
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!

Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Saviour;
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

What joy overwhelms us with these words! From what appeared to be the unbelievable defeat of God at Calvary we burst into the ecstatic joy of Christ’s resurrection. Think about the dark and solemn images of the days leading up to Easter. It was dark at Christ’s arrest on Maundy Thursday, a day before Easter. Jesus had just had His Last Supper with his apostles and it is just prior to His betrayal, trial and crucifixion. It was darker at His crucifixion and burial on Good Friday. How dark and sorrowful it must have been for His followers as they observed the Sabbath and, in keeping with Hebrew law and custom, could not do any work, much less attend to the broken body of their Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.

However, the mood had changed rapidly on Easter morning. Christ’s friends and followers discovered that the body was no longer in the tomb. They learned from Christ and the angels that He is Risen. HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN, indeed He is no longer where he lay. He is alive, he is Alive.

Our featured hymn today captures the change from darkness to light, from sadness to joy, both in words and in music. This lovely hymn is called Christ Arose. It was written by Robert Lowry (1826-1899), who also wrote Nothing But the Blood and Shall We Gather At the River, as well as the refrain to a hymn by Isaac Watts, Marching to Zion.

To show contrast with what had gone on the past three days, this hymn begins quietly, telling how God carried out His plan for salvation patiently and deliberately, how man’s efforts to seal God’s fate are futile, and how death is ineffective in the face of our Lord. Then suddenly, with fanfares and shouts, the music and text proclaim Christ’s ultimate victory over death. Friends I encourage you to stop, think and ponder the Easter meaning of these words as you read and sing them.

Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes; He arose a victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with His saints to reign; He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

The words Christ arose! Christ arose! Will be so familiar and will be heard in churches all over the world on Easter morning, the day we celebrate the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. To celebrate, many churches will ‘pull out all the stops’ and sing any number of inspiring, joy-filled hymns about the resurrection. One of my favourite is this hymn which written by Robert Lowry. I am always amazed at how quickly some of our favorite hymns were written.

Background to this lovely Easter hymn.

During the Easter season of 1874 Robert Lowry was having his evening devotions. As he meditated on the Scriptures, he was particularly  impressed with the events associated with Christ’s resurrection, especially with these words spoken by the angel as recorded in Luke 24:6, 7—He is not here, but is risen.

“He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’” (Lk. 24:6-7).

Inspired by this thrilling scene, Lowry sat down at the little reed organ in the parlor of his home, and created both words and music for Christ Arose (sometimes called Low in the Grave He Lay).  “Christ Arose” gave expression to the thoughts that had been uppermost in the mind of Robert Lowry. The hymn was published the following year and has been an inspirational favourite with God’s people ever since. This hymn is unusual in that the refrain is more than twice as long as each stanza. But it sounds an important note of triumph.

About Robert Lowry.

I would rather preach a gospel sermon to an appreciative audience than write a hymn. “Music, with me has been a side issue,” is said to be one of Robert Lowry’s confessions. “I have always looked upon myself as a preacher and felt a sort of depreciation when I began to be known more as a composer.”

Whatever his feelings, when Robert Lowry died on this day, November 23, 1899, in Plainfield, New Jersey, it was as a hymn writer that he was best known; and that is how he is still remembered. He was a Baptist minister who wrote the words and music for “Shall We Gather at the River,” “Christ Arose,” and “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.” In addition to those popular hymns, he wrote the music for several others that are loved by the church. Three of the best known are “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,” “We’re Marching to Zion,” and “I Need Thee Every Hour.”

Robert was born in Philadelphia in 1826. Seventeen years later, he became a Baptist. Soon afterward he entered the University of Lewisburg (now Bucknell) with the intention of becoming a pastor. After graduation, he took a church in West Chester. Over the next 45 years, he pastored five churches in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. From 1869 on, he pastored while teaching at his alma mater and then serving as its chancellor.

This song emphasizes both the facts and the importance of the resurrection of Christ. In this hymn we can joyfully sing as we thank God for the death and resurrection of Jesus. He took the punishment for our sins when we deserved to be crucified. Oh what mercy and grace. But today we remember the most important day in history. Rejoice, He is risen, He is risen indeed!

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