Merry Christmas to me – this is one of my very favorite hymns.
First of all, let’s not kid ourselves – 19th century English composer Samuel Wesley knew what he was doing when he wrote the anthem “Praise the Lord, O My Soul,” which includes the melody that we know as “Lead Me Lord.” Its composition itself – even without lyrics – is a prayer, beautifully formed in a conversational style (and an irregular meter) that calls us to speak what is on our hearts. Whether that is a prayer to God (“Lead me lord”) or as we encounter it, a prayer to Creation, this tune – with its complex harmonies yet ease of singing – calls us to look inward even as we look far outward.
And then we add the lyrics – for some Unitarian Universalists, this might be as close to prayer to anything or anyone as they might come. The words themselves draw us outward and inward – stillness, flight, and light become prayerful metaphors for that which our souls cry out for.
Winds be still.
Storm clouds pass and silence come.
Peace grace this time with harmony.
Fly, bird of hope, and shine, light of love,
and in calm let all find tranquility.
Bird fly high.
Lift our gaze toward distant view.
Help us to sense life’s mystery.
Fly high and far, and lead us each to see
how we move through the winds of eternity.
Light shine in.
Luminate our inward view.
Help us to see with clarity.
Shine bright and true so we may join our songs
in new sounds that become full symphony.
When I sing this hymn alone, I find a moment of stillness, a sense of release, and often – like this morning – a few tears that offer a moment of clarity. When I sing this hymn with others, I find a surprising connection, as though we have just breathed together in harmony for the first time and we have been, for even a moment, changed.
I love this hymn. I am grateful the universe conspired to give it to me on this Christmas morning.
To all of you – Happy Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. May this day bring you joy and comfort.
Please give credit to the Rev. Richard Kimball for writing the lyrics to this hymn. He was a Unitarian Universalist Minister in Massachusetts who passed away in 2007. He was a wonderful person.
Hello, I have just learned that Charlotte’s statement above is incorrect. The lyrics were written by Richard S. Kimball, a lay member of the Allen Avenue UU Church in Portland, Maine. He is not a reverend and is still alive! (as of April 2022).
I need to note that this attribution is incorrect. The lyrics were written not by Rev. Richard Kimball but by Richard S. Kimball, a lay member of the Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church in Portland, Maine. This Kimball was born in 1939 (the hymnal has it wrong) and is still living.These two Kimballs have been confused before, and it’s not a big deal except for the deceased/still living distinction, which is very meaningful to the Portland Kimball.