Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. John 15:4
A number of years ago there was an NHL hockey strike, without Toronto Maple Leaf games to watch I was wanting to find something else to watch. I had started to become interested in soccer after watching the World Cup. It was a pretty easy move to start watching English Premier League Soccer. It was also an easy choice because there was relatively no competition for the television on Saturday Mornings because my kids were teens or pre-teens and they valued sleeping in more than Saturday morning cartoons. I also liked that there was a lot of history and rivalries in the league. I loved that at Liverpool games they all sing together the Rogers and Hammerstein song from the musical Carousel, which was made famous by the local band: Gerry and the Pacemakers, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” . But that is a blog post for another day.
Another tradition in English football is the singing of a hymn before the FA Cup. Each year 90,000 football fans gather in Wembley Stadium in London and sing: Abide with Me. This is one of the oldest rituals in the British football calendar, having been introduced at the 1927 final. The Anglican vicar Henry Lyte wrote the poem “Abide with Me” in 1847 when seriously ill with tuberculosis. Within months of completing it he had died. The tune to which his words have been most famously set was supplied by the composer William Monk, whose three-year old daughter had recently died.
Abide with Me was popular in the trenches of the First World War, and became a great favourite of the Royal Family, particularly King George who was in attendance at the 1927 final. It was also played at the weddings of the future George VI to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and their daughter Elizabeth to Prince Philip.
The message is simple and profound, whatever the circumstances whether good or bad: God is with us. (Isaiah 41:10) He will never leave us of forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) He will abide with us.
It is a beautiful tradition, that in an age of secularization, I hope continues.
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.