How to Teach Children Hymns (even if You Aren’t Musical)- “Holy, Holy, Holy”

This is part of an ongoing series: How to Teach Children Hymns (even if You Aren’t Musical).

Our family recently completed our 6-week rotation of learning a new hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” As we were singing this hymn together the other night, my 6-year-old started acting it out. As we sang about casting down our crowns, he acting out taking his off and handing it to Jesus. As we sang about the angels falling down and worshiping God, he laid his face on the floor. It is so meaningful to me that son has an early understanding of these things because of learning and discussing hymns.

Hymnbook "Holy, Holy, Holy"

Why “Holy, Holy, Holy?”

I chose this particular hymn for 2 reasons.

1) The clear and orthodox teaching of the Trinity. The Trinity is an important tenet of our Christian faith and one that is often overlooked or misunderstood.

2)¬†We don’t have very many descriptions of heaven, but here is part of the song we will be singing someday. Scripture doesn’t give us the melody, but the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” does incorporate some of the words. We get to practice them early!

Revelation 4:8b and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS, AND WHO IS, AND WHO IS TO COME.”

We sing the hymn together each night using my iPhone. I found a version on iTunes of The Christian Children’s Choir that was easy for us to follow.

After singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” each night, I would review a verse or sentence with the children to explain what we are singing. If cover a line or two each night, you will review the entire hymn several times and your children will have a deeper understanding of the hymn and the theology it proclaims. I have provided the lyrics and explanations below.¬†Although there are 4 verses to this hymn, we choose to learn 3 of them.

Teaching Children the Meaning behind “Holy, Holy, Holy”

Verse 1:

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
I explained that this line is referencing a line from the Bible that we will all join in singing someday: Holy, Holy, Holy! We also talked about the definition of almighty.

Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee.
We discussed that this is poetry describing how we should be singing the wonders of God all day.

Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
We talked about the what mercy and mighty means and how God is both merciful to send of Jesus as our rescuer and mighty (just like almighty in line 1!)

God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.
Here is a great chance to review your catechism questions 6, 7, and 8.
6) Q: Are there more gods than one?
A: There is only one God.
7) Q: In how many persons does this one God exist?
A: In three persons.
8) Q: Who are they?
A: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Verse 2:

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Everyone who trusts that Jesus is their Rescuer is a saint. And as saints, we adore (love, respect, and worship) God. But this verse is talking about our future when we will worship Jesus by taking our crowns he has awarded us and throwing them at His feet. I knew my 6-year-old really gets it because when we sing this verse he acts it out. He takes his pretend crown off and kneels on the floor with it. It’s fun to watch.

cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Here is a fun reference to angels. We don’t know much about cherubim and seraphim, but we do know they are angels. In this verse, they are pictured falling down in front of God in worship. This is great fun to act out too! Isaiah 6 was read during our church service a few week later and my kids were excited, since they knew what seraphim were.

Who wert and art, and evermore shall be.
What a fancy way of saying that God was and is and forever will be the same. His character is constant.

Verse 3

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! All Thy works shall praise Thy name, in earth, and sky, and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty! God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
This verse is mostly a review but is a great opportunity to talk about how the world we live in is created by God and glorifies him. Think of some neat aspects of creation on land, in water and in the sky.

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