Because He Lives!

Ann Swanson

Have you seen the ad with a homeless man singing “Because He Lives”? Although he is a little off-key, he knows the words and sings them right out. In the end, it is an advertisement for a city mission.

“Because He Lives” is one of my favorite songs. I love the message as well as the music. My husband and I had a running argument about the lyrics and the melody. I told him it was the melody that hooked people on a song. He said it was the words that caught people’s attention. Be that as it may – this song has everything.

When my husband and I sang in church this was just one of the songs that we sang. My husband sang the melody and I provided the harmony – not always as written but as I felt it.

The first verse assures us that Jesus came to earth as a gift to save our sins. The last portion of that verse reminds us that the grave is empty – he rose from the dead and so we triumph over death.

The second verse gets to me when it says “How sweet to hold a newborn baby and feel the pride and joy he gives.”

That is the feeling that all new parents get when they hold their baby for the first time. Gloria wrote these words shortly after the birth of their first son. I remember when both of my children were born. I still remember the joy I felt when I held each of them counting their toes and fingers to be sure they were all there. I think I was a good mother, but only time will be the judge of that. I know I really enjoyed being a mother and still do. Not all of life is about sweet times, sometimes it is a real challenge.

I recall the birth of the grandchildren as well. Each of them was special. Each of them was different. When I welcomed the last one, I was alone. That was different but it was special. When I did the scrapbook for him, I included pictures of the grandfather that he never got to know. This youngest one seems to have inherited some things from Grandpa. I think his approach to learning is much the same as Grandpa.

Verse three is about our death. “And then one day I’ll cross the river, I’ll fight life’s final war with pain; and then as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know he reigns.” One of my friends years ago told me she did not like the third verse because it reminded her of her mortality. To me, it is a beautiful preview of what lies ahead.

I am always reminded of this verse as I work with hospice patients. Some of them are believers and others are not. I respect that. If they are a believer, I gladly share my faith with them. If not, I simply say a silent prayer to cover whatever is going on.

This beautiful song was written by Gloria and William Gaither in 1971. They both combined for the lyrics while the melody was written by Bill. They wrote so many beautiful songs that it is hard to pick a favorite. I have attended some of their concerts. When they came to Erie I went. When they were in Cleveland I was there. Their music was inspiring. I recall at the Cleveland concert we all got little flashlights and were asked to raise them high while they sang one of their songs. What a beautiful experience that was. The auditorium was lit only by the little lights.

This song has accomplished something unique. Although it is a traditional Southern gospel song, it has made it into the hymnals of almost all of the world’s major Christian denominations. It has also become one of the favorite Easter hymns.

The Gaithers were two high school teachers who married and followed their call in the Christian music field. One critic said, “The Gaithers brought God out of the closet.” This was the turbulent sixties. “As long as the world is a chaotic place, ‘Because He Lives’ will remain a treasured musical message of hope and faith.”

It is in the traditional hymnal that our church uses. I hear there is a new edition coming and I sure hope that my favorite songs are in there. If they are not we will have to keep some of the old books so we can sing those songs.

This weekend we celebrate Easter Sunday – the joy after the sadness. Be sure to take the time to go to church.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.