20

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Full Text

Refrain:
All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.

1 Each little flower that opens,
each little bird that sings,
God made their glowing colors,
God made their tiny wings. [Refrain]

2 The purple-headed mountain,
the river running by,
the sunset, and the morning
that brightens up the sky: [Refrain]

3 The cold wind in the winter,
the pleasant summer sun,
the ripe fruits in the garden,
God made them every one. [Refrain]

4 God gave us eyes to see them,
and lips that we might tell
how great is God Almighty,
who has made all things well. [Refrain]

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Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The vivid images depicting the creedal statement are easily understood by God's children of all ages. It is a catalog text (see also 431 and 433) because it enumerates various creatures God has made: flowers and birds (st. 1); mountains, rivers, daylight, and evening (st. 2); summer, winter, and harvest (st. 4). The final stanza and the refrain teach us that the creation points to and praises the Creator, for "the Lord God made them all." Note that "all" is used four times in the refrain!
 
Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

In this song, we lift our praise for the gifts from God’s creative hand—of the earth, the skies, landscape, time, health, relationships, and, best of all, his Son. Stirring preparation for singing this comes from those confessions which speak of God’s creation of all things, such as Our World Belongs to God, paragraphs 7-12; Belgic Confession, Article 12; and Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9, Question and Answer 26.
20

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Call to Worship

A text especially mindful of children
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
God made the bright, warm sunshine and the freezing-cold snow.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
God made the little tiny flowers and the great big pine trees.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
God made the peaceful ponds and the crashing waves.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
God made the cornfields and the rocky mountains.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
God made the creeping caterpillars and kicking kangaroos.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
God made you, and God made me.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Come, let us praise God for making all things good!
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Words of Praise

A prayer especially mindful of children
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Everything we see reminds us of your power and glory
because you made everything out of nothing.
You made the sun and the moon,
you made the land and the sea,
you made the birds and the fish and all the animals,
and you made us to love you and take care of your creation.
We praise you for all your gifts
and for helping us take care of your world.
Thank you for your creativity and your love.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! Amen.
—based on Psalm 8
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

At the beginning of time and space,
God gave us a world.
And God filled it with the useful—
with granite, with gravity, with grapes.
And God gave us minds and hands
to engineer the granite,
to probe the forces of gravity,
to squeeze the grapes.
At the beginning of time and space,
God gave us a world.
And God filled it with the beautiful—
with marble, with molds, with marigolds.
And God gave us compassion and imagination
to shape the marble into sculptures,
the molds into medicines,
the marigolds into tapestries of yellow and bronze.
At the beginning of time and space,
God gave us a world.
And God filled it with the comic—
with croaking bullfrogs, with the buoyancy of water,
with duck-billed platypuses.
And God gave us, as imagebearers of God,
a sense of humor and different ways of seeing
in order to delight in the world.
At the beginning of time and space,
God gave us a world.
And God filled it with mystery—
with living cells and dying stars,
with black holes and the speed of light,
with human beings.
And God gave us dominion over the earth,
to till it and to nurture it with curiosity and creativity.
At the beginning of time,
God gave us a world.
Let us give praise and thanksgiving to God, our Creator.
[Reformed Worship 40:24]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Creator God,
we praise you for this world.
As we continue to learn more of the vastness of your cosmos
and the smallest particles of each atom,
we stand in awe that you created all things
in a great harmonious design.
Open our eyes and ears that we may take delight
in the beauty and variety of sky and sea,
of desert and mountain, of plants and flowers,
of birds and fish, of creatures large and small,
and of humankind, the crown of your creation.
We praise you for the world you made, maintain,
and give to us to care for and enjoy. Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

A Hymn of Thanksgiving
 
We give you thanks, generous God, for the treasures of your good creation.
For each flower that opens,
each bird that sings,
each river that runs
for all things bright and beautiful,
we thank you with joy through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two
20

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Tune Information

Name
ROYAL OAK
Key
G Major
Meter
7.6.7.6 with refrain 7.6.7.6

Recordings

20

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Hymn Story/Background

Cecil F. Alexander wrote a number of hymn texts on articles of the Apostles' Creed. This text, whose biblical source is Genesis 1:31 ("and God saw all that he had made, and it was very good"), is Alexander's explanation of the Creed's phrase "Maker of heaven and earth." The text was first published in her Hymns for Little Children (1848) in seven stanzas, one of which was:
    The rich man in his castle,
    The poor man at his gate,
    God made them high and lowly
    And ordered their estate.
 
In the currently familiar form of this hymn, Alexander's original first stanza has been turned into the refrain, and her stanzas 3 and 6 have been omitted.
 
ROYAL OAK is presumably named for a tree at Boscobel, Shropshire, England, in which King Charles II hid during the Battle of Worcester, 1651. A folk song that may well be older than the seventeenth century, ROYAL OAK was associated in the 1600s with the loyalist song "The Twenty-Ninth of May," a song that celebrated the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II on May 29, 1660. Originally found in The Dancing Master (1686), the tune was arranged as a hymn setting by Martin F. Shaw and published in his Song Time (1915). ROYAL OAK is usually associated with the Alexander text in modern hymnals; it also features an antiphon – a refrain that begins the song and then recurs as any refrain would do.
 
This light, bright, and energetic tune is well suited to the colorful text. It requires unison singing throughout, although with a few simple changes the refrain could be sung in parts. Use light accompaniment. Try accompanying with guitars, flutes, or recorders, or use just three-part texture on the organ for the stanzas and four-part texture on the refrain. This is a great children's hymn–be sure to have them sing a stanza or two by themselves and then have the congregation join in on the refrain.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

As a small girl, Cecil Frances Humphries (b. Redcross, County Wicklow, Ireland, 1818; Londonderry, Ireland, 1895) wrote poetry in her school's journal. In 1850 she married Rev. William Alexander, who later became the Anglican primate (chief bishop) of Ireland. She showed her concern for disadvantaged people by traveling many miles each day to visit the sick and the poor, providing food, warm clothes, and medical supplies. She and her sister also founded a school for the deaf. Alexander was strongly influenced by the Oxford Movement and by John Keble's Christian Year. Her first book of poetry, Verses for Seasons, was a "Christian Year" for children. She wrote hymns based on the Apostles' Creed, baptism, the Lord's Supper, the Ten Commandments, and prayer, writing in simple language for children. Her more than four hundred hymn texts were published in Verses from the Holy Scripture (1846), Hymns for Little Children (1848), and Hymns Descriptive and Devotional ( 1858).
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

John Worst (b. Grand Rapids, MI, 1940) prepared the harmonization, first published in the Psalter Hymnal Supplement in 1974. Worst is a professor of music emeritus at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, where he taught from 1966 to 2001. Previously he taught at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa, and the University of Michigan. Educated at Calvin College, Ohio State University, and the University of Michigan (Ph.D.), Worst was an editor of Songs of Rejoicing: Hymns for Worship, Meditation and Praise (1989).
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

In his book on hymns, Albert Bailey writes of this particular one, “For once Mrs. Alexander has forgotten her theology and lost herself in the beauty of nature” (The Gospel in Hymns, 354). Many of us, if not all, have had these moments. Whether we’re in a park, on a mountain, at the sea or a lake, or simply driving down the highway with a glorious sunset behind us, it is not difficult to find ourselves lost in the beauty of God’s creation. These scenes should bring to mind Genesis 1:31: “And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Albert Bailey is perhaps mistaken when he claims that Alexander forgot her theology in the writing of these verses. For when we are in the midst of God’s creation, are our ideas of who God is not being shaped by all that we see? God made a good creation, and he loves it. Our God is a good God, who gives us good things, and then tasks us with taking care of them. Our God is imaginative, and his creation is both whimsical and sometimes startlingly majestic. Let us lift our voices in praise to our Maker, the Creator of all things bright and beautiful.
— Laura de Jong
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