Why do we sing the “Hymn of the Day?”
You may have noticed that one particular song in the worship service seems to be the “official” song of the service. How is this one different from the other songs in the service? The “Hymn of the Day” is a distinctly Lutheran addition to the ancient worship pattern of the church. At the time of the reformation, the only hymns sung in worship were the parts of the liturgy. But Luther, who was a compulsive catechizer, was searching for a way to use music to help instruct people in the faith so that through singing they might come to understand God better. An explosion of hymn writing was set off, and many new songs were written specifically to address particular passages in the Gospels. They began to match up songs with the lectionary readings they were based on in order that they might provide commentary and help focus the congregation’s thoughts on the themes of the day. So the purpose of this hymn, specially selected for every week of the church year, is to help us interpret, understand, reflect on, and remember the content of the Gospel reading. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” So we see that our singing can be a way in which the Word of Christ dwells in us and teaches us His wisdom. Ephesians 5:18b - 19 also says, “...be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs…” So when we sing, our music is not only for the purpose of praising God: We also benefit one another if the music helps us root our hearts and minds in the Word of God. The Hymn of the Day is written specifically to help us do that with the Gospel reading of the day.
From the Large Catechism on the Third Commandment: ...most especially, on this day of rest (since we get no other chance), we have the freedom and time to attend divine service. We come together to hear and use God’s Word, and then to praise God, to sing and to pray. ...Indeed, we Christians ought always to keep such a holy day and be occupied with nothing but holy things. This means we should daily be engaged with God’s Word and carry it in our hearts and upon our lips. But since we do not always have free time, we must devote several hours a week for the sake of the young, or at least a day for the sake of the entire multitude, to being concerned about this alone. ...Know, therefore, that you must be concerned not only about hearing, but also about learning and retaining God’s Word in memory. Do not think that this is optional for you or of no great importance. Think that it is God’s commandment, who will require an account from you about how you have heard, learned, and honored His Word.