Hymn of the Month: November

November’s hymn of the month is “Jesus Comes with Clouds Descending.” The text was written by Charles Wesley, brother of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. Charles is considered one of the great, if not the greatest, hymn writers ever. Eleven of his hymns are found in The Presbyterian Hymnal including “Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus,” “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” and “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.”

“Jesus Comes with Clouds Descending” is generally associated with early Advent and the few weeks prior. The text is laden with biblical imagery about the return of Christ and the last judgment. The history of the text is a rather long one; essentially a friend of Wesley’s wrote a similar text, which Wesley substantially revised for inclusion in a hymnal in 1758. The Wesley version was considered one of the “Four Great Anglican Hymns” in the 19th century along with his “Hark! the Herald” and the hymns, “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night” and “Rock of Ages.”

HELMSLEY is the most common tune to which the hymn is sung. Like the hymn, it has a complicated history. It was written by a friend of John Wesley’s, Welsh Methodist pastor, Thomas Olivers. Olivers said that he heard it being whistled in the street and later wrote it down. It is probably derived from an Irish concert song “Guardian angels, now protect me.”