Heaven and Earth Come Together

See, amid the winter’s snow,
Born for us on Earth below,
See, the tender Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Chorus:
Hail, thou ever blessed morn,
Hail redemption’s happy dawn,
Sing through all Jerusalem,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies;
He who, throned in height sublime,
Sits among the cherubim.

Say, ye holy shepherds, say,
What your joyful news today;
Wherefore have ye left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep?

“As we watched at dead of night,
Lo, we saw a wondrous light:
Angels singing ‘Peace On Earth’
Told us of the Saviour’s birth.”

Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this.

Teach, O teach us, Holy Child,
By Thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee,
In Thy sweet humility.
Written by Edward Caswall with the music composed by John Goss.

This 19th Century English carol has unfortunately remained outside the typical American repertoire of Christmas Carols. The work is composed of six verses that functionally serve as a conversation between the angel who is come to proclaim the birth of the Savior and the shepherds to whom the angel appeared. Both angel and shepherd stand in awe of what has just happened: that the very Word by which the earth was created now dwells among us.

The early church father, St. Athanasius, suggests that because it was Christ as the Divine Word who was our creator (Colossians 1:15-23), it is He who must serve as our re-creator. It is this same Christ, the promise of mankind from all eternity, who was born for us on earth below. On that first night, what a blessing it is to catch a glimpse of the fulfillment of these promises. In the fellowship of shepherds and angels, sharing the joy of the Son of God made incarnate, we are given a brief picture of heaven, that eternal joy, the eternal proclamation of Christ as King. We are given the briefest glimpse of what it will mean for heaven and earth to come together in common purpose: an eternity dedicated to knowing the breadth of what it means to hail Christ as King.

When I hear this song, the chorus is the shared hymn of angels and shepherds, of saints and sinners. In Christ, the highest in heaven and the lowest on earth are given the boldness and joy to sing through all Jerusalem. Where beings as different as angels and humans can stand together in praise of Christ we are given encouragement. All races, all languages, all cultures will someday stand together praising Christ. On that first night we were assured of this as the perfection of an angel and the weakness of a shepherd shared this joy. Standing before Christ, angels and humanity say together “Teach, O teach us, holy Child, by thy face so meek and mild, teach us to resemble thee, in thy sweet humility.”

~Ben Gibson

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Come, Deliver This World, and Us, Forever

Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,
And usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with afright,
But hear the angel’s warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
Our confidence and joy shall be,
The power of Satan breaking,
Our peace eternal making.

This night of wonder, night of joy,
was born the Christ, our brother;
he comes, not mighty to destroy,
to bid us love each other.
How could he quit his kingly state
for such a world of greed and hate?
What deep humiliation
secured the world’s salvation!

Come, dearest child, into our hearts,
and leave your crib behind you!
Let this be where the new life starts
for all who seek and find you.
To you the honor, thanks, and praise,
for all your gifts this time of grace;
come, conquer and deliver
this world, and us, forever.

Words, verse 1: Johann Rist, 1641;
trans. John Troutbeck, ca. 1885; Words: vv. 2 & 3 by Fred Pratt Green

_______________________________________________________

The first time I ever heard this carol was when my father picked it for our family to sing for a church “gift exchange”.  I thought it odd.  I’d not heard it before and wondered why we couldn’t just sing something more familiar — some nice simple Christmas carol about that night in Bethlehem.

As an adult, however, I have come to understand and therefore love this hymn.  Let’s take a walk through it and I’ll explain why:

Verse 1:

Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,
And usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with afright,
But hear the angel’s warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
Our confidence and joy shall be,
The power of Satan breaking,
Our peace eternal making.

Oh, how I have grown to see the darkness of the world we live in!  Evil really does exist.  School shootings, terrorists, destructive relationships in families that effect the children– these are but a few of the dark things that weigh on my mind.  And sometimes that darkness seems overwhelming, not only to me, but evidently to many others.  Today is December 21 — the winter solstice. When I picked this carol, the first line made me think about that so I looked up celebrations for the winter solstice.  One website suggested a “Candlelight Ceremony” where all the lights are out and participants “remember and honor the sun’s light” before starting with a big candle and lighting smaller one’s off  of it to fill the room with light.  Sound familiar?  We will be doing this during this Advent season.  HOWEVER, we will do it to honor the SON — that child spoken of in this verse who came to break the power of darkness — Satan’s power — and give us peace.  It is He who created the light of morning; it is He who is the Source, not only of that physical light but also of the light which overcomes the darkness of our world.

Verse 2:

This night of wonder, night of joy,
was born the Christ, our brother;
he comes, not mighty to destroy,
to bid us love each other.
How could he quit his kingly state
for such a world of greed and hate?
What deep humiliation
secured the world’s salvation!

Though my reason for picking this hymn is mostly found in verse 1, I had to highlight verse 2 for one simple reason.  The song “Glorious Day” by Casting Crowns has been an important one for me this past year as it has made me realize that Jesus left the glory of Heaven — His “kingly state” referred to in this carol,  to come HERE — to this dark, fallen world!  What a sacrifice!  It has struck me this year as I lament the evil and darkness of the world around me; Jesus willingly came here, knowing how messed up this world is, to “secure the world’s salvation!”  What a gift!

Verse 3:

Come, dearest child, into our hearts,
and leave your crib behind you!
Let this be where the new life starts
for all who seek and find you.
To you the honor, thanks, and praise,
for all your gifts this time of grace;
come, conquer and deliver
this world, and us, forever.

So today, let us honor, give thanks to ,and praise Jesus, the Son of God, who came to break the power of darkness in this world and in us.  Let our prayer truly be “Come, conquer and deliver this world, and us, forever.”  And may that prayer give us purpose and peace as we live our lives for Him.

~Tricia Hitchcock

 

 

Into the Midnight Clear

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold!
Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From heaven’s all gracious King!
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing.
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world hath suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing,
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When, with the ever-circling years,
Shall come the Age of Gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.
by Edmund Sears

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear was written in 1849 by a Pastor in Wayland, Massachusetts named Edmund Sears.  Some say these words were penned at the request of a friend.  Whether or not that is true I can say that I am grateful for their poignancy today.  Without fail, listening to this song stirs in me the desire to stand in that midnight clear with the angels.  My soul aches to shed the trappings of this world and simply hear the the celebration of Jesus’ birth the way God intended it.  How sad and how beautiful is the story this song tells.  Even more than that, how familiar.  This song describes a weary world full of sin, strife and two thousand years of long suffering.  Not surprisingly, this world doesn’t hear the love song which the angels bring to us over the noise of its Babel.  BUT WAIT! God gives us so many invitations calling us out of the Babel!

 

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

He says, Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.
Psalm 46:10

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  |
Luke 11:9

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for ALL the people.
Luke 2:10

We can rest beside the weary road, we can step into the midnight clear, we can kneel in our hearts at the foot of the manger.  And there my friends, until all the world gives back the song, we can hear the angels sing.

~Katlyn Heck

 

For All the People

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
Luke 2:10

Can there be more beautiful words than these?  It must be the most wonderful song ever sung:

Don’t be afraid; be holding on to these words tightly.

I have come especially to tell you this; you have been chosen to be the first to hear.

This isn’t just good news; this is the greatest news ever!

This isn’t just going to make you happy;  you will be overjoyed!

This isn’t just news for you alone; this is for everyone, everywhere, for every time, for evermore.

The best gift of all has been given; no one, not one, has been left out.

And this song was sung for us all to hear.

Behold.  Be holding tight.  To His Word.  To each other.  To Him.

~ Emily Gibson

reblogged from Barnstorming