(I didn’t post a carol or Advent hymn yesterday, so here’s two of ’em. Enjoy)
Yesterday evening my friend Bekah of Her Clever Fingers hosted a Christmas Carol-Sing at her house. A group of friends gathered for cookies, spiced cider, and song well into the evening. We sang lots of Christmas carols, and had a rollicking time of it too–at one point we burst out laughing and the singing came to a complete stop at the moralistic ending of the third verse of “Once in royal David’s city”:
1. Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.
2. He came down to earth from heaven
Who is God and Lord of all,
And his shelter was a stable,
And his cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.
3. And, through all his wondrous childhood
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden
In whose gentle arms he lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as he.
4. And our eyes at last shall see him,
Through his own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heav’n above,
And he leads his children on
To the place where he is gone.
5. Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see him, but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
When like stars his children crowned
All in white shall wait around.
I’ve always enjoyed that hymn musically, since the bass and tenor lines both have decent, moving parts. However, since we weren’t able to make it past verse three, I suggested we sing the following Advent hymn by Charles Wesley as a corrective, with its clear reminder in verse two that Christ’s Spirit is who brings the kingdom in us, making us mild, obedient and good when we could not become that ourselves:
Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear Desire of ev’ry nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child, and yet a King,
Born to reign in us for ever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to thy glorious throne.
His “all-sufficient merit”–wow, to think that Jesus’ perfect record and covenant-keeping is given to us! If the Nativity had been the end of the story, it would have been incredible, beautiful, but kind-of a let down: a baby in a manger can’t do much good. But it was the first step toward the cross, toward the empty tomb, toward his ascension to his glorious throne in heaven, and he has raised us with him (Ephesians 2:1-10, Colossians 3:1-4). We follow the Lamb who has conquered!
Jesus is the hope of all the earth, the Desire of every nation, though many don’t yet see or acknowledge his rule. People here in Chattanooga, people in Kiev and all over the world need to see Christ, to see his people living beautiful lives of compassion and love for each other and for our neighbors and cities, to see a people set free from fears and sins, resting in Jesus, the strength and consolation of Israel. May our lives and our words bear witness to our King.
Come, thou long-expected Jesus!