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Behold the Lamb of God

Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Stanza 13 climaxes with a profession of Christ’s resurrection. The Apostles’ Creed professes: “The third day he rose again from the dead,” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 17, Question and Answer 45) calling God’s people to declare that in Christ’s resurrection, “he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he obtained for us by his death.” By his resurrection we are “already raised to a new life.”


And “Christ’s resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.” Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 25 states that “God raised him from the dead; he walked out of the grave, conqueror of sin and death—Lord of life!”


Behold the Lamb of God

Call to Worship

The mystery from which true godliness springs is great—come and see!
Jesus Christ appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.
May all the ends of the earth
see the salvation of our God.
—based on 1 Timothy 3:16; Isaiah 52:10
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Behold the Lamb of God

Tune Information

C Major

Behold the Lamb of God

Hymn Story/Background

In his book of meditations for public worship entitled He Was in the World (Wild Goose Publications, 1995), John Bell explained that John the Baptist affirmed Jesus as the “Lamb of God” not at the time of his death, but when he identified Jesus in the crowd that had come to him for baptism. That thought inspired Bell to take four different pictures of Jesus and allow John’s words to be associated with them, thus emphasizing that the acclamation was true for all of Jesus’ life and not just at its end. The result was a meditation that combined dramatic descriptions and reflections on these pictures with a sung response.
Mary Nelson Keithahn discovered Bell’s book when she spent a week in the Iona Community in Scotland in the summer of 2005. Intrigued by his interpretation of the Baptist’s acclamation, she began writing stanzas for a hymn based on events in Jesus’ life, from his birth to his resurrection. Each stanza ends with a refrain proclaiming him the Lamb of God. The first line is in Latin. Adding “Gloria” to “Agnus Dei” makes the refrain an act of praise as well as an acclamation of Christ as the Lamb of God.
John D. Horman has written a gentle, unison tune with a refrain that will allow the youngest in the congregation to join in after each stanza is sung. A second ending to the refrain is provided for use after the last time it is sung. John named the tune KENSINGTON after the Maryland suburb where he lives. He has also written an alternate harmonization that includes flute, handbells, and violoncello as well as piano.
It is not intended that all twelve stanzas of this hymn be sung at one time, except perhaps as a congregational response in a special service remembering the life of Jesus in a series of dramatized scripture readings during the Lenten season. Rather, worship planners are encouraged to select one or any combination of stanzas supporting the readings and theme for the day, to be sung as a regular hymn or as a congregational or choral response to the readings.
— Mary Nelson Keithahn

Author Information

Mary Keithahn (b. 1934) is an ordained pastor and certified church education specialist in the United Church of Christ, working now as a consultant and free-lance writer out of her home in Rapid City, South Dakota. Her experience in the parish ministry includes many years as a pastor's wife, church teacher and administrator, director of Christian education, associate pastor, choir director (children's choir, adult choir, and handbell choir), and worship arts coordinator.
Mary served as a curriculum writer for the Joint Educational Development (a consortium of up to fourteen major Protestant denominations) and its successors, writing eight courses for primary, junior, and broadly-graded levels. In addition, she has written three broadly-graded courses on Paul, David, and Moses, a study guide on Ruth, and several books on teaching methods, as well as articles for at least fifteen different denominational and ecumenical journals. As an editor, she has been responsible for such varied publications as a manual to assist Religious Program Specialists in their role of coordinating religious education in the United States Navy, a collection of resources for celebrating the Bach anniversary (Choristers Guild), and, most recently, a two-volume collection of hymn-based learning designs for children (Abingdon). She has also contributed worship resources and seasonal liturgies to other publications, and edited a collection of prayers for church choirs (Abingdon).
Mary is a Life Member of both The Hymn Society and Choristers Guild, served on the Choristers Guild board of directors from 1984-1990, and the editorial board for The Chorister, the Guild's bi-monthly journal. As chair of the publications committee for the Guild, she helped develop and edited Our Heritage of Hymns, Series 1 and 2, and worked on other hymnody resources for children. She has also written numerous articles on using hymns with children for The Chorister, Church Music Workshop, Church Worship, Church Educator, and other journals. As a clinician, she has led workshops on children and worship and using hymns with children at Choristers Guild seminars and chapter meetings, the annual conference of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, the Presbyterian Music and Worship conference at Montreat (NC), and other denominational and ecumenical events. She also led an adult Bible study and taught a class on hymn-writing at the Presbyterian Music and Worship Conference at Westminster College (PA), in 2003. In 2008 she taught a class on congregational song for the West River section of the Yankton College Lay School of Theology.
In 1990, Mary and John D. Horman initiated the MAD (music, art, and drama) camp at Placerville, the United Church of Christ camp near Rapid City, South Dakota. Mary was dean of the camp for thirteen years and writer in residence through 2007. John served as composer-in residence and accompanist for the camp from 1990-2007. They have written ten different musical dramas for the camp, some of which have been published by Choristers Guild, Abingdon Press, and Voice of the Rockies. They have also collaborated in writing anthems and hymns. In 1998 Abingdon Press published two collections of their hymns, Come Away with Me: A Collection of New Hymns, and Time Now to Gather: New Hymns for the Church Family. A third collection, The Song Lingers On, was published by Zimbel Press in 2003. Ten hymnals, supplements, and other collections now include some of their hymns.

Composer Information

John D. Horman (b. 1946) retired from teaching after twenty-six years with the Montgomery County, Maryland Public School System. During his tenure with the school system, he taught general music for twenty-one years at the elementary level and five years at the secondary level, and worked extensively with choruses at both levels. He received the Broom Award for Excellence awarded by his home county for his work in composition for children.
John has served Warner Memorial Presbyterian Church in Kensington, Maryland for thirty-nine years as Organist and Director of Music. He oversees three choral groups and two bell choirs. Over eighty members of the congregation participate in the music groups of the church.
John's compositions are found in the catalogues of over ten nation-wide publishers, and they have been heard on national television in both the United States and Great Britain. He presently has over 150 anthems for children, youth and adults in print. He also wrote songs for both Silver Burdette and Macmillan publishing houses for their 1988 school music series. More recently his compositions have also been geared toward virtuoso solo artists, both vocal and instrumental.
Over the last decade John has served as clinician for children or youth choirs at national conferences held by Presbyterians, Reformed Presbyterians, American Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and Disciples of Christ. His work as a choral clinician has taken him to over 50 children's choir festivals in the last 15 years. He has taught Children's Choir Techniques at the Church Music Institute held by the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music.
John has served both on the Choristers Guild Board of Directors and The Board of Directors of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians. Recently he was consultant for the Exploring Faith Sunday school curriculum published by the United Methodist Publishing House, supporting the writing teams and providing music resources for the curriculum.
Before that he edited the junior level of Abingdon's graded choir curriculum, Church Music for Children.
He works as a free lance writer for a number of music’s periodicals including Church Music Workshop, a journal published by Abingdon and The Chorister, the journal for the Choristers Guild of Garland, Texas
With members of a consultant group, New Paths, John co-authored two books on incorporating the arts into Christian Education programs: Something Old, Something New:Hymns to Sing and Things to Do, Volumes I (Who Is Jesus?) & II (Exploring the Christian Year), published by Abingdon Press.
In 2008 Augsburg Fortress published Sing the Stories of Jesus: Twenty-Five Songs for the Youngest Singers, a collection of lectionary-based songs for ages 4-7 with words by Mary and music by John. Included are suggestions for teaching the stories and the music.
John has collaborated with Mary Keithan in producing three collections of new hymns, Come Away With Me and Time Now to Gather, published by Abingdon Press, and The Song Lingers On, published by Zimbel Press. Some of these hymns and others have been included in the United Methodist hymnal supplement, The Faith We Sing, and the Presbyterian supplement, Sing the Faith.
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