There are probably at least as many answers to this question as there are hymns. The subject of hymns and religious music creates discussion, debate and even division.
In 1779 in the preface to the very first collection of hymns for the use of the people called Methodists, John Wesley identified the following points...
The Churches Advertising Network (CAN) publicised the results of a recent survey revealing that only 12% of adults in Britain know the facts of the biblical Christmas story.
This is hardly surprising when I guess more parents will encounter the Christmas story through their child's nativity play, rather than at church. Yet these plays now include unusual characters such as an OFSTED inspector (is this one of the wise men?) and a snowflake!
As I try to explain to my toddler what Christmas is, I find it hard and confusing to match the true events with what this celebration has become. "Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ," I say proudly.
Then I have to correct myself, "Though Father Christmas is a Nordic tradition, still I am sure at least one of the three wise men wore a red robe and had a beard. Also, baby Jesus was not really born on the 25th of December..." I mumble on. Puzzled, my toddler stares at me blank. I would too.
Last night former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas, left wing academic Beatrix Campbell and Guardian economist Aditya Chakrabortty were at Kings Place in Kings Cross, London, debating who will own the progressive future.
In their five minute speeches, not one of them talked about what role religions would play in that progressive future so my hand shot up as soon as the chair, Guardian journalist John Harris, opened the debate to the floor.
A number of prominent Christians, including five reverends, were exposed as BNP members this week when internet bloggers published a leaked membership list of around 13,000 names.
Among those listed were several teachers, solicitors, a doctor and a radio presenter for TalkSport (who claims he joined for 'research purposes'). But, worryingly the list also contained the names of a number of other self-described 'Christians' and 'church-attenders' including a cathedral tour guide and a vicar.
Condom demonstrations for ten-year-olds, trips to sex shops for teenagers and cartoon videos on how to masturbate - all part of the sex education programme for Dutch children.
Recently, the British government announced plans to make sex education a compulsory part of the national curriculum with children as young as five being taught about body parts and animal reproduction.
But the government's proposals - seven-year-olds will be taught about puberty and intercourse, and 11-year-olds will learn about contraception and abortion - have drawn an angry response from the evangelical Christian organisation Christian Voice who fear that this will only "encourage experimentation".
I read a lot of newspapers and after a while you get a bit desensitized to it all - it's not easy to be shocked. Especially by the Church Times.
So I was surprised to find myself literally incandescent with rage over the headline Vatican to test for 'stable masculinity' in ordinands in last Friday's edition.
The story basically says that the Vatican is to endorse psychological screening to root out 'deep-seated homosexual tendencies' in ministerial candidates.
Gay men indentified by this process will be considered unsuitable for the priesthood, even if they are happy to remain celibate.
An atheist bus campaign is doing something its backers probably didn't expect - gaining Christian support.
Around 300 London buses will sport the message: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life," staring from January and the 5,000 ads are likely to run for a month. After one of the most prominent atheists in Britain, Professor Richard Dawkins, threw his weight behind the campaign spearheaded by journalist, Ariane Sherine, The British Humanist Association raised more than £30,000 on its first day of fundraising.
Except it isn't really an atheist message; it's agnostic. The insertion of the word "probably" into the first sentence has left room for a debate about God's existence.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."
Those famous words from the Gospels of John and Matthew are ingrained into our consciousness.
But, how often do we apply them to ourselves? Currently, in this time of major economic crisis we hear daily accusations of greed levelled at apparently avaricious bankers. But, can we honestly say that we are blameless?
What support can God and the Bible offer people as shares fall and rise violently and the credit crunch begins to bite? Prices increase, the value of savings fall and job security becomes more precarious.
Last month, the Church of England published a prayer on its website which reads:
Lord God, we live in disturbing days:
across the world,
jobs are taken away,
and fragile security is under threat.