History of Hymns: 'God Almighty, We Are Waiting'
By Jan McNair
“God Almighty, We Are Waiting”
by Ann Bell Worley
Worship & Song, 3047
God Almighty, we are waiting
for a Savior to appear.
Meet us in our desert journey;
give a sign that you are near:
burning bushes, parted waters,
food aplenty in the wild.
As we look for signs and wonders,
help us see you in a child.*
*Words Copyright © 2005 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Because of the season’s Christological focus, few Trinitarian hymns are found in the Advent hymn repertoire. This makes “God Almighty, We Are Waiting” unusual. The hymn looks back to the birth of Christ, looks forward to the coming kingdom, and prays for “in the meantime” living on earth, with each stanza addressing one person of the Trinity.
Stanza 1 refers to the stories in the book of Exodus that acknowledge God’s presence through sign and action. References include Exodus 3:2 (burning bush), Exodus 14:21 (the parting of the Red Sea), and Exodus 16:4 (manna provided to the people). Today, we continue to look for signs and pray to see God in Jesus.
Stanza 2, beginning “God Incarnate, we are waiting,” both remembers Christ’s birth and anticipates his second coming. It captures the essence of Advent as a season when we look not only to the fulfilled promise of the incarnation of God in Jesus, but also to the promise of Christ coming again. The second half of the stanza asks for help in witnessing to the truth of the gospel through our own words and actions, reconciliation, and welcome and inclusion of all at the table.
The Trinitarian outline of the hymn is completed in stanza 3, “God the Spirit, we are waiting,” as a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Employing a series of petitions in the second half—“Search our hearts,” “speak in language,” “help each one of us.” Seeking God’s mercy, we pray that the Spirit will prepare us not only to receive the gift of the baby Jesus, but also to receive one another as children of God.
The author imagined the hymn to be sung with the tune HOLY MANNA. In Worship & Song, the text is set to the tune HYFRYDOL. Hymnary.org offers a Flexscore version of the HYFRYDOL tune with this text, which provides parts for a variety of accompanying instruments. Other tunes that could be considered are GENEVA, EBENEZER, and HYMN TO JOY, each offering a different emotional tone for rendering the text.
The hymn’s author, Ann Bell Worley, states:
“God Almighty, We Are Waiting” was my first hymn. It started with the first line in my head during the season of Advent. I heard that line to HOLY MANNA and wrote the rest of the lyrics with that hymn tune in mind. At the time, I was on staff at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, and a fellow minister, who was also a gifted musician, played “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship” on banjo, which struck a deep chord with me and fostered my love of the tune, HOLY MANNA. I remember writing down the first line of “God Almighty,” and keeping a notebook by my bedside that evening, tossing and turning, and writing a line at a time. In the morning, I had a full hymn.
My undergraduate degree is in music, and I grew up in a liturgical tradition. Both of those factors highly influenced my experience in, and contributions to the Baptist churches I served. I loved teaching the significance of the Christian year in a denomination that traditionally didn't follow it, because it had tremendous impact on people who were intentionally living their faith and hadn't been exposed to Christian seasons outside of Christmas and Easter. The season of Advent holds special importance to me as the anticipation of a new beginning, so I suppose it's no accident my first hymn would be an Advent hymn!
Growing up at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Dickinson, Texas, the Trinitarian theology of Christianity was a mystery Ann embraced as a child and grew to love as an adult. She was intentional about using inclusive language in her description of God.
Ann Bell Worley is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCWBI). She is a published hymn author and ordained minister with degrees in music and divinity from Baylor University. Before assuming her most challenging role as a mother, she worked as an associate pastor in San Antonio and Dallas and as a recruiter for non-profit organizations in Chicago. She lives with her husband, Todd, and children, Isaac and Gillian, in Spring, Texas.
“God Almighty, We Are Waiting,” Hymnary.org, https://hymnary.org/text/god_almighty_we_are_waiting_for_a_savior (accessed October 19, 2020).
Personal correspondence with the author, Ann Bell Worley.
Ann Bell Worley Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/annbellworley.author/about/
Ann Bell Worley, Gray Colored Glasses: Reframing Beauty: https://graycoloredglasses.blog/about-me/ (accessed October 19, 2020).
Jan McNair serves as the Director of Worship and Music Ministries at First-Centenary United Methodist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She is a graduate of Perkins School of Theology/Meadows School of the Arts, and the Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies.