The first hymn I ever loved was “Fairest Lord Jesus,” in our hymnal as “Beautiful Savior” (ELW 838).
Having not been raised in the church, then coming home from summer camp wanting to find out everything I could about God, I listened to the Christian radio station in Houston. Mixed in there with a lot of very bad theology and political discourse was a lot of great 1980s “Contemporary Christian” music—some of it terrific, some truly awful—covering the whole range of 80s sounds from synthesizers, to fake rock and roll, to the truly grandiose. One day, cutting through all that noise like a laser, I heard this simple hymn. It was performed a capella, without instruments, starting with a single voice and then layering on part after part in a way that made my ears tingle. It was like musical glitter, sparkling and lovely.
I knew about Jesus the baby, Jesus the mighty, Jesus the mysterious, Jesus the dead-then-alive. To that point, my attraction to Jesus had been to the idea of Jesus. It was about his teachings, his importance, the necessity of Jesus.
But THIS was a different Jesus. Jesus the beautiful. Jesus in the meadows and woodlands; Jesus in a shining sky. Beautiful Jesus. The Fairest. The song, and the Jesus in the song, cut right through my brain, through all that thinking and reasoning I had been doing, and got into my musical heart. Thinking about Jesus was good, but through this song I started to feel Jesus.
Beautiful Savior, delight us with your starlight and moonlight. Shine on the meadows and woodlands, and on us. Drizzle your beauty all over us like musical glitter. Let your love enter our brains, our ears and our hearts. Amen.
Photo by NASA/ESA/JHU/R.Sankrit & W.Blair [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons