Where is This You Brought Us? (Hebrews 12:18-24)

O dread and sovereign Lord,
Where is this you brought us?
To Sinai, hard and scorched,
Through fire-flashing.
Tornado-winds and cloud,
Around Your person shroud,
With trumpet blasting loud.
Your voice in power roaring,
When Moses shook and trembled.
O dread and sovereign Lord.

O great and gracious Lord,
Is this where You brought us?
To Zion’s heavenly court,
With angels feasting.
Your throne on crystal sea,
Your face at last we see,
O Christ, unceasingly.
The Church of the firstborn,
With Jesus blood be-sprinkled.
O great and gracious Lord.

O Holy Night (Minuit, Chretiens)

O, holy night, it is a solemn hour,
When God-incarnate descended to man.
Taking the stain, erasing sin’s dark power,
Ending the wrath of His Father’s commands.
The whole earth waits, with hope and joy she quivers,
For on this night, our Savior, Christ, is seen!
Fall on your knees! Give heed to your Deliverer!
Noel! Noel! See the Man who would redeem.
Noel! Noel! See the Man who would redeem.

Light of our faith, and ardency of pining,
Has guided us to His natal retreat.
As when of old, the star in brilliance shining,
Summoned the kings from their home in the east.
The King of kings born humbly in a manger,
O, kings of earth, pride not then in your means!
Pride is the sin which brought God’s holy anger!
Come bow on your face, before He who redeemed.
Come bow on your face, before He who redeemed.

Jesus redeemed us from sin which all men smothers,
The earth is free, heaven’s doors open wide.
We once were slaves, but He calls us ‘brothers,’
And those He loves, never sword can divide!
So who declares our praise to Him, our reverence?
For us His birth, His death has set us free!
Christians, arise! And sing of your deliverance!
Noel! Noel! Honor Him who us redeemed.
Noel! Noel! Honor Him who us redeemed.

NOTES: This is a translation from Placide Cappeau’s original French poem ‘Minuit Chretiens’ (Or ‘Cantique de Noel’). One of the things that struck me when I first ran across Cappeau’s poem was how gospel focused it was — as opposed to the version of ‘O Holy Night’ (translated by John Sullivan Dwight) that we all sing at Christmas. I’d always liked the tune of ‘O Holy Night,’ but dismissed the song itself as a cheesy, fluffy Christmas song — with some lines that were border-line heretical! What I didn’t realize is that John Sullivan Dwight purposefully removed all references to Jesus’ divinity, and mankind’s sinfulness.

Dwight was a Unitarian, and a Transcendentalist. In other words, he believed that people were basically good, that there was no ultimate judgement for sin, and that Jesus was not God, but no more than an example of how to be a nice person. Dwight took this beautiful, gospel centered song — so rich with theology — and turned it into a feel-good, do-gooder’s song. To Dwight, the significance of Christmas was that ‘The soul found its worth,’ and that ‘the slave is our brother.’ In warping the song like this, he missed the true message of Christmas: Jesus came to redeem us from our sins — sins which justly condemned us to death and hell, according to God’s law. Though we were slaves to sin, God adopted us as co-heirs with Christ.

Christmas, then is not simply a time to think happy thoughts and be nice to each other. Christmas is a time to marvel at the awesome wonder of the incarnate God, who “Did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-10

Generational Faith (Deuteronomy 4)

Lord, Thou hast called me by Thy grace,
Redeeming me from judgment’s hand,
Thy call to me has given place,
To call my children from the damned.
I trust Thy will to do,
Will save my family too.
Lord, give me strength to teach Thy ways,
And not neglect Thy clear command,
Not presupposing on Thy grace,
But training them with humble hands.
My greatest joy to see,
My children trusting Thee.

Lord, guide me to be quick to hear,
And follow in Thy sanctity,
That all my children, ever near,
May learn by what they see in me.
Oh, keep me in Thy ways,
That they not learn to stray!
Lord, when your enemy appears,
Within the house Thou gavest me,
Make strong my hands to crush and clear,
Those things which turn their hearts from Thee.
Lord, guide my hands to war,
Keep nothing left in store.

Lord, do not let my faith stagnate,
Regeneration ends in me.
But as headwaters that create,
A progeny that follows Thee.
For many generations still,
My offspring following Thy will.