When you were young, did you ever have a favorite “bedtime” story that you enjoyed. Maybe it was about a knight and a princess, or perhaps it was about Jack and a beanstalk. Whatever it might have been, did it seem like you ever tired of hearing it? When your Mom and Dad read you that story, would you hang on to every word? Did your mind allow you to “see” every scene? As much as we might have enjoyed those “bedtime” stories, there are some other things that we should never tire of hearing. Allow us to reflect on such an account.
In the late 1800’s, the prolific song writer, Frances (Fanny) Jane Crosby, wrote a song that is still widely used today. It is titled, “Tell Me the Story of Jesus”. In this hymn, Crosby recalls the life of Christ in a way that reminds the singer of the greatness of our Lord. The song begins, “Tell me the story of Jesus, Write on my heart every word; Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard.” Indeed, out of all the stories, both non-fiction and fantasy, there is nothing that can compare to the true-life account of Jesus Christ. I hope that I never get to the point that the Gospel becomes trite. May I continue to long for the message of the cross!
Crosby continued, “Tell how the angels, in chorus, Sang as they welcomed His birth; ‘Glory to God in the highest! Peace and good tidings to earth’.” It is in this short section that the songwriter brings to mind the images surrounding the birth of Christ. In particular, Crosby relied on information found in Luke chapter two. While it might be disputed whether the angels were actually singing, it is certainly obvious that there was reason to rejoice and praise God. The Saviour had finally been born into the world. Mankind had hope! Today, when we sing that portion of the hymn, I hope that we appreciate the fulfillment of prophecies that were made long ago. Christ had come!
In the second stanza, Crosby shifted from the wonder of the manger to the everyday struggles that Jesus endured. “Fasting alone in the desert, Tell of the days that are passed, How for our sins He was tempted, Yet was triumphant at last. Tell of the years of His labor, Tell of the sorrow He bore; He was despised and afflicted, Homeless, rejected, and poor.” Again, the mind comes alive with imagery. We are able to “see” His difficulties with such clarity. While on the Earth, our Lord understood, and experienced, great hardships. It can be uneasy to visualize, but it is important that we never forget all that Jesus bore. Each of His difficulties was faced, and overcome, for all of us.
Then, Ms. Crosby came to the third stanza. As we journeyed through the life of Christ in song, we arrived right where Ms. Crosby wanted us to be. Our minds are now brought to the scenes of crucifixion, death, and resurrection. “Tell of the cross where they nailed Him, Writhing in anguish and pain; Tell of the grave where they laid Him, Tell how He liveth again. Love in that story so tender, Clearer than ever I see; Stay, let me weep while you whisper, Love paid the ransom for me.” Does it bring a tear to your eye? The reality is established that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I do not have to be lost. A comment that Jesus made comes to mind. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
The refrain of Crosby’s hymn echoes part of the opening stanza. “Tell me the story of Jesus, Write on my heart every word; Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard.” I hope that I never tire of hearing about my Lord. Even though I have heard it numerous times, may my heart continue to long to hear it one more time.
Friend, when a preacher or teacher relays to you the life of Christ, please do not ignore his efforts. True, you may have heard what he has to say many times, but it should never become insignificant to us. Let us hang on to each word, and let us allow our minds to “see” the love that Jesus has for us all. When the preacher or teacher is finished detailing the amazing Gospel, let us appreciate the privilege that we have had to hear It. May we be like the children who have heard their favorite story. “Read it to me again…”
~ Corey Barnette