Saturday, December 24, 2005

On one particular cold, dark December evening in the 1770's . . .

John Newton’s, “Praise for the Incarnation”

The life of John Newton is familiar to many. He was a slave-trading sea captain who was converted to Christ and appointed Vicar of the Parish Church in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England, in 1764. On one particular cold, dark December evening in 1770's, he introduced a new hymn to his flock. It was Christmas Day, and he was determined to lead his humble congregation in "Praise for the Incarnation."

Sweeter sounds than music knows
Charm me in Immanuel's name;
All her hopes my spirit owes
To his birth, and cross, and shame.

When he came, the angels sung,
"Glory be to God on high;"
Lord, unloose my stamm'ring tongue,
Who should louder sing than I?

Did the Lord a man become,
That he might the law fulfil,
Bleed and suffer in my room,
And canst thou, my tongue, be still?

No, I must my praises bring,
Though they worthless are and weak;
For should I refuse to sing,
Sure the very stones would speak.

O my Saviour, Shield, and Sun,
Shepherd, Brother, Husband, Friend,
Ev'ry precious name in one,
I will love thee without end.

Christina Rossetti’s, “Christmas Day”

Christina Rossetti was born in London, December 5, 1930, one of four children of Italian parents. Her father was the poet Gabriele Rossetti (1783-1854), professor of Italian at King's College from 1831. She was a devout member of the Church of England and a prolific poet. She is perhaps best known for “A Christmas Carol,” more commonly recognized as “In the Bleak Mid-Winter.” Her Christian poetry was influenced by Augustine, Thomas à Kempis, George Herbert, and John Donne. Although plagued for much of her life by ill-health and poverty, she produced hundreds of lines in praise of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

A baby is a harmless thing
And wins our hearts with one accord,
And Flower of Babies was their King,
Jesus Christ our Lord:
Lily of lilies He
Upon His Mother's knee;
Rose of roses, soon to be
Crowned with thorns on leafless tree.

A lamb is innocent and mild
And merry on the soft green sod;
And Jesus Christ, the Undefiled,
Is the Lamb of God:
Only spotless He
Upon his Mother's knee;
White and ruddy, soon to be
Sacrificed for you and me.

Nay, lamb is not so sweet a word,
Nor lily half so pure a name;
Another name our hearts hath stirred,
Kindling them to flame:
'Jesus' certainly
Is music and melody:
Heart with heart in harmony
Carol we and worship we.

Merry Christmas!

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