In the Army we call them “suspense dates”. When you get a written task from higher headquarters, the first thing you look for is the infamous “S:”. It’s at the upper right-hand corner of the document, followed by a date. That date tells you when the mission must be executed.
Lewis Redner received such a “suspense date”. It was 24 December 1868! The task – compose a melody for a poem that the famous 19th clergyman, Phillips Brooks. Brooks had written the poem during his trip to the Holy Land three years earlier. The “song” was to be sung at the midnight Christmas Eve service, just a few days hence.
Mr. Redner was the church organist and Phillips Brooks was his pastor. Phillips Brooks was a towering figure, both physically and intellectually, and was one of the most influential preachers of the 19th Century. He had officiated over President Lincoln’s funeral and that same year had made a trip to the Holy Land. From that trip experiences Rev. Brooks had composed a five-stanza poem about the birth of Jesus Christ. And now he wanted his poem put to music and so he gave the task to his organist, Lewis Redner.
But Redner kept drawing blanks. Try as he did, he could not come up with a decent melody that would do justice to Rev. Brooks’ poem. As the time approached, Mr. Redner became more desperate. This song was to be sung at the church’s most important service for the entire year. To fail would be catastrophic. Finally, the last day had come – December 23, 1868 – and he still was unable to compose a melody. Feeling as though he had failed miserably, Lewis Redner finally put the whole matter in the hands of God. He prayed that God would somehow “work things out”. God did. That night, Redner was awakened from his sound sleep with a haunting tune ringing in his mind. It was a tune that no human being had heard before.
Quickly, he composed the music on paper. The next morning he taught that song to the church’s children’s choir and it was sung that very evening. When all his own efforts had failed, God came through for Lewis Redner. To his dying day Mr. Redner believed that melody of “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” was a gift straight from heaven.
What inhibits us from asking God for help when we are faced with tasks and challenges? God can help us. And, like any parent, God yearns to hear from his children. Why not ask the Lord today for strength, wisdom and guidance to help you with the tasks you have? As he did for Lewis Redner, he will come through for you also. The Scripture tells us,
“If anyone lacks wisdom let him ask of God who gives to all men liberally” – James 1:5
Dear Father in heaven, Please help me today with the tasks and challenges I will face. Raise me above my own inadequacy and limitations and make me more than equal to the task. Amen.