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40 Favorite Hymns for the Christian Year

A Closer Look at Their Spiritual and Poetic Meaning

Direct Price: $15.99 $12.00
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 176
ISBN: 9781629957937
Publication Date 08/19/20

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For generations, Christians have celebrated holidays and seasons with special songs. We all have favorite Christmas carols or Easter hymns, and some of us associate certain hymns with events like Thanksgiving or the New Year. But often we overlook the fact that these familiar songs are also powerful works of devotional poetry.

This anthology of great hymns associated with the calendar year invites us to experience these works as poems—to slow down and savor their well-turned phrases, their surprising metaphors, and their evocative language. English professor Leland Ryken provides historical background and literary analysis for each hymn, finishing each with a Scripture reading to accompany it. The result is a wonderfully devotional and poetic study for the Christian’s year, drawing on hymns for the New Year, Good Friday, Easter, Christmas, and more.

List of Hymns

New Year 

  • O God, Our Help in Ages Past by Isaac Watts
  • Standing at the Portal by Frances Ridley Havergal
  • Great God, We Sing That Mighty Hand by Philip Doddridge
  • God of Our Life by Hugh Thomson Kerr 
  • Another Year Is Dawning by Frances Ridley Havergal

Good Friday

  • When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts
  • O Sacred Head, Now Wounded by Paul Gerhardt
  • Beneath the Cross of Jesus by Elizabeth Clephane
  • Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed by Isaac Watts
  • My Song Is Love Unknown by Samuel Crossman
  • Lead Me to Calvary by Jennie Evelyn Hussey
  • Jesus, Keep Me near the Cross by Fanny Crosby 


  • Christ the Lord Is Risen Today by Charles Wesley
  • Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands by Martin Luther
  • The Day of Resurrection! by John of Damascus
  • The Strife Is O’er, the Battle Done by Author Unknown
  • Look, Ye Saints, the Sight Is Glorious by Thomas Kelly
  • Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain by John of Damascus

Reformation Day 

  • A Mighty Fortress Is Our God by Martin Luther
  • I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord by Timothy Dwight
  • O Word of God Incarnate by William Walsham How
  • Not What My Hands Have Done by Horatius Bonar
  • How Vast the Benefits Divine by Augustus Toplady


  • Now Thank We All Our God by Martin Rinkart
  • Come, Ye Thankful People, Come by Henry Alford
  • We Plow the Fields by Matthias Claudius
  • We Gather Together by Author Unknown
  • For the Beauty of the Earth by Folliott S. Pierpoint


  • Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley
  • O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by Author Unknown
  • Joy to the World by Isaac Watts
  • Hark! the Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley
  • As with Gladness, Men of Old by William Chatterton Dix
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks
  • Once in Royal David’s City by Cecil Frances Alexander
  • Angels, from the Realms of Glory by James Montgomery
  • Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning by Reginald Heber
  • O Come, All Ye Faithful by John Francis Wade
  • It Came upon the Midnight Clear by Edmund Sears
  • Silent Night by Joseph Mohr


“The reader will be doubly enriched—by the delightful poetry of the songs and by the instructive prose of a great literary scholar.”

— Karen Swallow Prior, Author, On Reading Well and Fierce Convictions

The Author

Leland Ryken

Leland Ryken

Leland Ryken, author of more than fifty books on biblical and literary topics, is the literary editor of the ESV Bible and emeritus professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois.

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