A Hymn for Christmas Eve

After “Silent Night” has been sung and the last of the candles have been extinguished, after hugs have been exchanged with friends and the parking lot has emptied, after my son has finally settled down and drifted off to sleep on Christmas Eve, I listen to one more nativity song—and I put it on repeat: “Glory be to God on High.”

What’s interesting about this eight-year long tradition is that it has nothing to do with nostalgia—I only discovered this hymn about a decade ago. What captivates me about this hymn is that it gets closest to conveying the mystery of the Incarnation than most Christmas carols I know. Don’t get me wrong, I have a soft spot for “Silent Night.” If I’m honest though, I value it more for the sentimental memories that are conjured up when I sing it. Yet in the lyrics of Wesley’s little known hymn I am consistently awestruck by a God who “made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” Hear Wesley’s words:

Stand amazed, ye heavens, at this
See the Lord of earth and skies
Humbled to the dust He is,
And in a manger lies!

This move by the triune God is rich in confounding paradox—a God who created the vast universe out of nothing humbles Himself in redeeming love as a helpless baby:

Emptied of his majesty,
Of his dazzling glories shorn,
Being’s source begins to be
And God himself is born!

It’s so easy to let the incredible story of redemption grow numb in our minds and hearts – for it to be eclipsed by trite sentimentality. Wesley, however, calls us to be captured by the mystery of a God who emptied Himself of everything but love.

What’s our response in light of this incarnate love? To offer our very lives back to the one who is utterly empathetic with our human nature:

We, sons and daughters of men rejoice,
The Prince of peace proclaim,
With heaven’s host lift up our voice,
And shout Immanuel’s name:
Knees and hearts to Him we bow,
Of our flesh and of our bone,
Jesus is our brother now,
And God is all our own!

So perhaps tonight you’ll find a new carol to add to your Christmas repertoire. It will be on repeat in the Sigler household.

* “Glory Be to God on High” (Charles Wesley, arrangement, Reva Williams, ©2007)

Glory be to God on high,
And peace on earth descend:
God comes down, He bows the sky,
And shows himself our friend!
God, the invisible, appears,
God, the blest, the great I AM,
Sojourns in this vale of tears,
And Jesus is his name.

Him, the angels all adored,
Their Maker and their King;
Tidings of their humbled Lord,
They now to mortals bring;
Emptied of his majesty,
Of his dazzling glories shorn,
Being’s source begins to be,
And God himself is born!

See the eternal son of God
A mortal son of man,
Dwelling in an earthly form,
Whom heaven cannot contain!
Stand amazed, ye heavens, at this!…
See the Lord of earth and skies!
Humbled to the dust He is,
And in a manger lies!

We, sons and daughters of men rejoice,
The Prince of peace proclaim,
With heaven’s host lift up our voice,
And shout Immanuel’s name:
Knees and hearts to Him we bow,
Of our flesh and of our bone,
Jesus is our brother now,
And God is all our own!

Image attribution: sedmak / Thinkstock

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