The Whole Gospel in the Songs of Christmas (Part 2)

In the previous post, we began to consider the gospel content of some Christmas carols. Again, it is important to remember that some of the best Christmas carols not only speak of Jesus as the child in the manger, but also the gospel reason for why the Christ had to come—the presence of sin that cannot be satisfied but through the peace that comes from the blood of the cross. Jesus did not come to be a sweet child but as the Word made flesh, the bruised and broken sacrifice, the conqueror of death by death, and the ascended Lord at the right hand of the Father. Following are some other wonderfully rich lyrics for the season of Christmas. “Savior of the Nations, Come” is a hymn written by Ambrose of Milan around 397 (Veni Redemptor gentium) which was translated from Latin to German by Martin Luther in 1523 and then translated from German to English by William M. Reynolds in 1851.

Savior of the nations, come; Virgin’s Son, here make Thy home
Marvel now, O heaven and earth, That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood; By the Spirit of our God
Was the Word of God made flesh, Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.

Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child Of the virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned, Still to be in heaven enthroned.

From the Father forth He came And returneth to the same,
Captive leading death and hell High the song of triumph swell!

Thou, the Father’s only Son, Hast over sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be; When shall we its glories see?

Brightly doth Thy manger shine, Glorious is its light divine.
Let not sin o’ercloud this light; Ever be our faith thus bright.

Praise to God the Father sing, Praise to God the Son, our king,
Praise to God the Spirit be Ever and eternally.

The sinless and undefiled Son of God came as the Savior of the nations who has taken death and hell captive and has won victory over sin.

The very familiar carol “Angels from the Realms of Glory” has two unfamiliar verses which speak directly of the call of mercy and the light of Christ for all nations. The original verse five and six by James Montgomery from 1816 say the following:

Sinners, wrung with true repentance, Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence, Mercy calls you; break your chains.

Come and worship, come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn king.

Though an Infant now we view Him, He shall fill His Father’s throne,
Gather all the nations to Him; Every knee shall then bow down:

“Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” by Charles Wesley also has a couple of unfamiliar verses that take the gospel message of the earlier verses and applies that to union with Christ and to justification and sanctification.

Come, Desire of nations, come, Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power, Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart, Formed in each believing heart.

Finally, “Good Christian Men, Rejoice!” is about the purpose of the Incarnation in bringing salvation. Heinrich Suso (?-1366) wrote this hymn which was then translated from Latin to English by John Mason Neale in 1853. The lyrics center around rejoicing and the reason for rejoicing—the coming of Christ in order to save His people. From the first stanza we hear of the news of the Incarnation. Stanza two speaks of the joy to come in being reconciled to God and the now-opened door of heaven. The third stanza rejoices in the Peace that Christ brings that conquers the fear of the death and the grave for He was born to save!

Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul, and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say: News! News! Jesus Christ is born today;
Ox and ass before Him bow; and He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss: Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this!
He has opened the heavenly door, and man is blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you all, to gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

Greg Wilbur

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