Here we go! We’re taking an overdue stab at planning out the hymns we’d like to help our little preschool-age daughter learn by heart. These are seed hymns — otherwise known as kernlieder, that we have lined up for the next year:
September — Lord, Thee I Love With All My Heart (LSB #708)
October — Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Your Word (LSB #655)
November — By Grace I’m Saved (LSB #566)
December — O Come, O Come Emmanuel (LSB #357)
January — I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb (LSB #740)
February — Chief of Sinners Though I Be (LSB #611)
March — Glory Be To Jesus (LSB #433)
April — Christ the Lord is Risen Today (LSB #463)
May — God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It (LSB #594)
June — At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing (LSB #633)
July — Come My Soul With Every Care (LSB #779)
August — On My Heart Imprint Your Image (LSB #422)
In most cases, we will tackle the first stanza if it’s a long one, otherwise we ‘ll do all of them. Whatever is age-appropriate.
Our own parish’s repertoire is fairly limited. It contains mostly British hymns of praise, some classic American Protestant favorites, and several from the “Redeemer” section of the Lutheran Service Book. From time to time, we sing hymns about one of the sacraments or sanctification, too. And while all the hymns seem to have a strong, melodic tune in common, there is much left on the table that our children (and us) still need to learn about our Lord. Far greater riches remain unexamined and await discovery. Music and hymnody can do a lot to teach the faith to young (and old) alike, so why would we leave the best stuff behind?
In our previous church, the take-home family devotions each week provided Sunday’s hymn of the day for use at home, allowing it to take deeper root. Our church in the town we lived in before that provided a hymn of the month, and that’s actually the track we’re going to follow, considering the age of our little one. With our own kernlieder, we will reach into our own faith tradition and use quality Lutheran hymnody to pass along treasures for both mind and heart. As her parents, we hope to gradually fill in some gaps in our young daughter’s knowledge of the Christian life, using hymns that discuss Jesus’ work on our behalf, shine a flashlight on our sinful human condition, confess what His death and resurrection mean, and take us deeper into our justification, hope and comfort, baptized identity, prayer, catechesis, and many more layers of the holy faith and what Scripture teaches.
Her understanding is simple right now, but it’s stunning to see her capacity for learning and memorization. Parents and clergy sometimes underestimate kids, or perhaps the underestimate the Holy Spirit at work within them. Music works to make early mental pathways — and this is wisdom to grow into and savor as she matures. Our hope is to help reveal a higher-resolution picture of life under the cross, coming into a fuller understanding of what Christians know, and find a daily purpose in learning these gems as we raise her in a faith that is tangible, tactile, and as fully-dimensional as life itself.
What hymns does your congregation really own? Not just enjoy singing, but embrace as the best hymnody for encapsulating Christian truth and the divine narrative between God and man? Does your pastor have some that he wants to teach you to know especially well, hymns that will stick with you for the long road of life?