Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

The One Year Book of Hymns reminds us that

“Emily Elliott had a special concern for those who were sick. She wrote many poems and hymn texts especially for the infirm, publishing forty-eight of them in a little book entitled Under the Pillow. She may have been influenced by her aunt, Charlotte Elliott, who wrote: “Just As I Am.” Charlotte was also a prolific poet and was sickly for much of her life.

This particular hymn was written for children, to teach them about Jesus’ birth. It has a simple construction–each of the first four stanzas present a contrast with the word but.  Given the first two line of each stanza, you might expect the world to welcome Christ, but no–it had no room for Him. The chorus is a natural response to the predicament, something that even a child could understand. Though the world had no room for the Lord, we have room for Him in our hearts.

The last stanza provides a stirring conclusion. The Lord, once rejected and displaced, will soon come in victory–and we should all be waiting.

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.

The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word,
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.

When the heav’ns shall ring, and her choirs shall sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.”

My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

For His Little Son Hans

How do you engage your children and grandchildren in the story of Christ’s birth? May I commend to you this poem, penned by the Reformer Martin Luther.

[If you’re looking for a great book to communicate truth to children this Advent season, may I commend to you ‘The Christmas Alphabet’ by Lawson Murray of Scripture Union.  Contact me if you want further details.]

“Martin Luther wrote a fifteen-stanza poem as a hymn for his five-year-old son, Hans. It was sung during the annual Christmas Eve festival at Luther’s home when a man dressed as an angel would begin with the opening stanzas. The children would then greet him by joining in at the eighth stanza with, “Welcome to earth, thou noble guest.”

{Dallas Theological Seminary, Voice magazine, Dec. 2006}

The One Year Book of Hymns adds the following reflections:

“Luther wrote it (this hymn) for his little sons Hans, to be sung at a family Christmas celebration. As God communicated with us by sending His Son that first Christmas night, Luther sought to communicate the life-transforming message of Christ to his son.”

From Heaven above to earth I come,
To bear good news to every home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing.

To you, this night, is born a Child
Of Mary, chosen mother mild;
This tender Child of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all your earth.

‘Tis Christ our God, who far on high
Had heard your sad and bitter cry;
Himself will your Salvation be,
Himself from sin will make you free.

He brings those blessings long ago
Prepared by God for all below;
That in His heavenly kingdom blest
You may with us forever rest.

These are the tokens ye shall mark,
The swaddling clothes and manger dark;
There shall ye find the young Child laid,
By whom the heavens and earth were made.

Now let us all, with gladsome cheer,
Follow the shepherds, and draw near
To see this wondrous Gift of God,
Who hath His own dear Son bestowed.

Give heed, my heart, lift up thine eyes!
What is it in yon manger lies?
Who is this Child, so young and fair?
The blessèd Christ Child lieth there!

Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through Whom e’en wicked men are blest!
Thou com’st to share our misery,
What can we render, Lord, to Thee?

Ah, Lord, Who hast created all,
How hast Thou made Thee weak and small,
To lie upon the coarse dry grass,
The food of humble ox and ass.

Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
She yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for Thee.

For velvets soft and silken stuff
Thou hast but hay and straw so rough,
Whereon Thou King, so rich and great,
As ’twere Thy heaven, art throned in state.

Thus hath it pleased Thee to make plain
The truth to us, poor fools and vain,
That this world’s honor, wealth and might
Are naught and worthless in Thy sight.

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Here in my poor heart’s inmost shrine,
That I may evermore be Thine.

My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep,
I too must sing, with joyful tongue,
That sweetest ancient cradle song.

Glory to God in highest Heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given,
While angels sing, with pious mirth,
A glad New Year to all the earth.

A Popular German Carol

As the message of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ has spread around the world, a variety of gifted poets have described the wonder of this event.

On this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, let’s take a look a popular German Carol which first appeared in 1599, the same century in which Luther had posted his 95 Theses. Ponder anew this day the wonder of the long-awaited Messiah.

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen
Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

This popular German carol first appeared under the title “Das altcatholische Triersche Christkindlein.” The first two verses were translated into English (“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”) by Theodore Baker in 1894. The first known record of the original German verses was in a German hymnal (Speierisches Gesangbuch) in Cologne in 1599. Ten additional verses were later added to the first two in order to create a ballad about how Mary (Maria) learned she was to be the mother of Jesus. No one knows who the authors may have been.

DEUTSCH

Musik: Köln, 1599
Text: Unbekannt/Anonymous

Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen
Aus einer Wurzel zart.
Wie uns die Alten sungen,
Aus Jesse kam die Art
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht,
Mitten im kalten Winter,
Wohl zu der halben Nacht.

Das Röslein das ich meine,
Davon Jesaias sagt:
Maria ist’s, die Reine,
Die uns das Blümlein bracht:
Aus Gottes ewigem Rat
Hat sie ein Kindlein g’boren
Bleibend ein reine Magd.

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
of Jesse’s lineage coming, as those of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
when half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
with Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to us a Savior,
when half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
how Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger they found him,
as angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
true man, yet very God, from sin and death he saves us,
and lightens every load.

Words: stanzas 1-2: German, fifteenth-century carol;
trans. Theodore Baker, 1894.
stanzas 3-4: Friedrich Layritz (1808-1859)

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

As we count down the final few weeks to the celebration of the Incarnation, let’s prepare for that event by reflecting on some of the First Covenant (Old Testament) clues of who the Messiah truly is.

The first three chapters of Genesis are foundational to many biblical doctrines. The major events of CREATION and FALL draw us into serious theological implications.

In Genesis 3:15 as God metes out His judgement on the serpent, He anticipates the future head-crushing deliverer.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and hers;

he will crush your head, and

you will strike his heel.”

Conflict. Enmity. Ongoing. Between the serpent (Satan) and humanity. Throughout the world’s ethnic groups this conflict continues to evidence itself. Notice that God put the enmity there.

But at a future date, the ‘seed of the woman,’ one of her ‘offspring’ will achieve a decisive, once-for-all head-crushing victory over the serpent. When was the serpent’s head crushed? What event in the life of Jesus Christ, the ‘seed of the woman’ rendered powerless the work of the serpent?

I love Colossians 2:13-15, where Paul, writing to the believers in this Asia Minor community, traces their spiritual history.

“When YOU WERE DEAD IN YOUR SINS, and in the uncircumcision of YOUR SINFUL NATURE, GOD MADE YOU ALIVE WITH CHRIST. HE FORGAVE us ALL OUR SINS, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; HE took it away, NAILING IT TO THE CROSS. And having DISARMED THE POWERS AND AUTHORITIES, HE MADE A PUBLIC SPECTACLE OF THEM, TRIUMPHING OVER THEM BY THE CROSS.”

So the cross is the ‘main event!’ At the cross, God forgave our sins and settled our legal debt. Jesus Christ conquered sin and death, Satan and hell itself, by His once-for-all death upon the cross. The ransom was paid, peace with God was granted and Satan received his eviction notice. The Apostle John picks this up in 1 John 3:8 (a text I’ve been assigned to preach on December 31st) “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

Thank God again today that victory is available through Jesus Christ, the long awaited Deliverer.

Now we may well sing an acient hymn, the tune of which was not finalized until the 1800s. “The text developed as a series of liturgical phrases used during Advent. Each stanza concentrates on a different biblical name for Christ, making this hymn a rich source for Christian meditation.” {The One Year Book of Hymns}

O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, And order all things, far and nigh;

To us the path of knowledge show, And cause us in her ways to go.

O come, Desire of nations, bind All peoples in one heart and mind;

Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease; Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

[Latin hymn – 12th century]

P.S. By the way, can you list in order (with Latin titles) the four hymns noted in Luke 1 & 2?

 

 

Christmas is all about….

Christmas is all about ______________________. Survey 100 people and I’m sure you’ll receive a huge variety of answers to the survey.  I listened to a radio report connected with this article, that “Listening to too much Christmas songs may damage mental health.

It always amazes me how many musicians produce a Christmas album. Sure there are the seasonal songs about snowflakes, silver bells, Santa Claus and a snowman who becomes animated. But they include the carols and songs that depict the truth that JESUS CHRIST is the reason for the season.

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God’s Son coming to earth in the form of a helpless baby, is a watershed doctrine. According to the Apostle John, in his second letter, those who do not ‘acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh,’ are deceivers. ‘Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.’

So ‘Who Is He In Yonder Stall?’ ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the Newborn King!’ ‘O Come All Ye Faithful….O Come Let us Adore Him….’ ‘Joy to the World, the Lord is Come!’ Those who know Jesus Christ as Saviour, who have experienced His rescue from their sins are filled with joy, wonder, worship and praise. Why? Because Christmas is all about CHRIST!

Some Children Walking In The Truth, Others Not?

Some kids are easy to raise, others not so much. Some children are compliant and bend their wills to authority, while others manifest an independent spirit straight out of the womb.

As John pens his second epistle (2 John) he communicates his great joy in learning of the spiritual children who were aligning their lives with their Father in heaven and bringing joy to their ‘spiritual father’ on earth.

“It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.”

This Father has children, those who have received Jesus Christ, who have believed in his name and been welcomed into the family. These children were born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John has already unpacked this for his gospel readers in the Prologue of his gospel (John 1:1-18). Though Jesus Christ created the world, and though he came to this same world, he was rejected. No one is born a Christian, yet some certainly have a great advantage, like Timothy (2 Timothy 3:14) of knowing from infancy the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

A new birth, physically or spiritually, is an occasion to celebrate. In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables which remind us of the joy of being ‘found’ and the resultant joy in heaven when sinners repent.

Conversion, the outward expression of internal regeneration, is just the beginning. John, in this short second epistle, declares his joy that these spiritual children, at least some of them, are walking in the truth.

You can see lives change. You can see truth changing thinking as a new convert’s mind, will and emotions experience the sanctifying work of the Spirit of God, who enables us to grasp and apply God’s truth in each area of life.

John wanted to encourage obedience. We should do likewise, commending those who in small steps are learning to obey everything Jesus commanded. Isn’t that what the Great Commission is all about? After baptism, the initial public act of commitment to Jesus Christ, the balance of one’s discipleship is ‘learning to obey’ everything Jesus commanded.

May we this day we used of God to encourage those ‘children of God’ who are walking in the truth and, as God directs, to speak truth into the lives of other professed children who need to repent and return in fresh surrender to God. Perhaps God will speak into our lives His truth. As the accompanying picture for today’s blog reminds us, ‘The Spirit of God leads the people of God to submit to the Word of God.’

Greetings from God!

What do you need in your life which only God can supply?

As you read through the correspondence in the New Testament, you become familiar with a pair of virtues embedded into a typical greeting. When the Apostle Paul pens words to a church or a friend or a leader he launches with this greeting. Peter follows this same pattern and in 2 John, the apostolic writer, ‘the elder,’ also incorporates these virtues.

‘Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.’

This is the ‘expanded edition’ packed with godly characteristics which God desires for every member of His family.

We need grace.

We need mercy.

We need peace.

God knows this and wise, godly leaders know this as well. And so they pray and counsel and preach and direct the attention of the congregation to the only source of such solid help.

May you this day seek from God the grace, mercy and peace which He so abundantly possesses and so generously shares with those who diligently seek Him.

Let’s greet each other today not simply with casual words, which even the unregenerated use. Let’s direct each other’s attention to God and to His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, the one and only Saviour, the one and only Source of eternal life.

The apostle not only prays it but assures the congregation that God will provide it and cause it to accompany our daily lives forever.

 

Digging deeper into the depths of Scripture…

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