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Wednesday, December 31, 2014
New Year's Eve

All hail to God’s anointed,
great David’s greater Son!
All hail, in time appointed,
your reign on earth begun!
You come to break oppression,
to set the captive free,
to take away transgression
and rule in equity.

You come with rescue speedy
to those who suffer wrong,
to help the poor and needy
and bid the weak be strong;
to give them songs for sighing,
their darkness turn to light,
whose souls, condemned and dying,
are precious in your sight.

James Montgomery’s “All Hail to God’s Anointed”
(tune: Rockport)
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

Having graduated from the University of Michigan, all I can think of when I read the beginning of these hymn lyrics is the beginning of another song: “Hail to the Victors Valiant.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve sung this fight song, showing full allegiance to my alma mater and its teams.

This hymn is a fight song of sorts, meant to draw us again into full allegiance to God’s anointed, great David’s greater Son. The original reference is to Solomon from Psalm 72, but I have no doubt that James Montgomery was looking at this psalm through a Christian lens, recalling the family of David and citing Jesus as that greater son. All hail to God’s anointed. All hail to the one whose reign on earth has begun. Hail! Hail!

In all honesty, when I first read the words to this particular hymn, I wasn’t moved. Maybe the accompanying music would have helped, but nevertheless, my first thought was, “Yes, but . . .” Yes, but what about those who suffer wrong and see no signs of God’s presence? Yes, but what about those people who are poor and in need, whom I see every day on the streets of Chicago? Sometimes, many times, I don’t see God coming with speedy rescue. Instead, it seems to me that God moves with glacial speed.

But that’s why I’m helped by thinking of this hymn as a university fight song. My team might get blocked and have trouble making it across the goal line. Various coaches might be fired. Sometimes the recruits don’t perform. There are bad calls. Practice doesn’t go well. Despite some losses or bad seasons, I keep cheering and hoping. And every time I hear the beginning of “Hail to the Victors Valiant,” I get goose bumps. The same and more should be true when I sing this hymn.

Dear God, refuel me with an allegiance that comes from hope and passion. Help me to sing loudly my own song of allegiance to you, despite any discouragement. Hail, God’s anointed. Hail Victor Valiant. Hail. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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