Christ is alive! Let Christians sing
Source: Singing the Faith: 297
Words: Brian Wren
Music: “Truro” by Thomas Williams
Metre: 88.88. Long Metre
Ideas for use
Brian Wren’s hymn was written in part as a response to the assassination of Martin Luther King (see also Pam Pettitt’s “I have a dream”, a man once said). Consider projecting or displaying images of contemporary events of “insult, rift and war, / where colour, scorn or wealth divide” (v.3).
The hymn affirms the everyday impact of the resurrection event of Easter (Christ beings “good news to this and every age”, v.5), which suggests that this text should never be ghettoed into the few days following Easter but used regularly to celebrate the Christian response to the many difficult events and situations we encounter and know about from the daily news and our own experience.
“Christ is alive” affirms the power and relevance of Easter as a contemporary event; not a distant, historical story. It was written in 1968 and has undergone a number of revisions.
In Piece Together Praise: a theological journey (1996: Stainer & Bell), Brian Wren writes:
“Ten days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [4 April 1968], the congregation I served as minister, Hockley and Hawkwell Congregational (now United Reformed) Church, Essex, met to celebrate Easter. I tried to express an Easter hope out of that terrible event, in words which could be more widely applied, and wrote ‘Christ is alive!’ because our available hymns spoke of Easter as a glorious event long ago, far away, and high above.”
Brian says that he wanted to reinterpret the biblical imagery of Christ ‘reigning at the right hand of God’. He argues that while that imagery was originally intended to suggest the universal sovereign presence of Christ with the believer, the idea of Christ reigning ‘above’ now implies remoteness and lack of involvement with everyday life. He tried to redress the balance in verses 3 and 4.
Revisions have been intended to maintain the original theme (that the risen Christ shares yet outlasts our suffering, making Easter good news for all), while searching for better language than “the command-and-control vocabulary of the original.” (The original version of the final verse read: “Christ is alive! Ascendant Lord, / He rules the world his Father made / Till, in the end, his love adored / Shall be to every man displayed” – which also employs very masculine terminology.)
The 1993 revision added the stanza, “Women and men, in age and youth etc.” (drawing on Acts 2: 17), affirming that the life and love of God are “revealed in Jesus, freed for all.”
The last line of verse 1 (“Love, drowned in death, shall never die”) references Luke 12: 50 and Romans 6: 3-4 (“Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death”). Other biblical allusions include John 14: 6 (verse 4, lines 3-4), and Colossians 1: 24.