home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > 24th December > WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

One of the reasons every Christian who deeply loves Jesus the Christ should be thrilled around Advent and Christmas is that the songs that are sung and heard at this time – in churches and shopping malls – are among the most profound theological statements and descriptions of the glorious Christ ever penned! While we sing Hark! The Herald angels sing! as a Christmas carol, when Charles Wesley wrote it in 1739, he wrote it as a hymn of worship celebrating the incarnation, and saving work, of Christ. Just one year before he penned this poem, Charles had encountered the Redeemer himself. The joy of his own salvation is very obvious in this carol – “God and sinners reconciled” was a description of his own experience of coming to Christ. In another hymn that he wrote that same year he penned these amazing words:

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?   

Charles Wesley originally sought to follow in his famous brother John’s footsteps. But he failed miserably as a preacher. He was no preacher. Or was he? History now bears witness to Charles Wesley’s greatness as a preacher through hymns. Five years after writing “And Can It Be” and “Hark!” he wrote his masterpiece Carol – “Come Thou Long-Expected Saviour”.

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;
dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
by Thine own sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.

The high Christology in this Carol is impressive. Charles Wesley has captured Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; and Micah 5:2 in this Carol. Chances are that his brother John had preached multiple sermons on these three texts of Scripture. But chances are that no-one today remembers any of them! But chances are remarkably good that there are tens of thousands of people today who could recite – and even sing – every stanza in Charles Wesley’s “Come Thou Long Expected-Saviour”! And by so doing they would again be meditating on these precious and profound Scriptures about the birth of the promised Messiah who was born to rule the world one soul at a time.

THE HEALING POWER OF TRUTH SET TO BEAUTIFUL MUSIC

William Chatterton Dix was blighted by a darkness that flooded his soul. In his despair he turned to the Bible and trained his heart to consider the Saviour and Deliverer who was born that first Christmas night. He was deeply struck by the opening chapters of Luke’s Gospel and as he fixed his heart on the truth contained in those first two chapters he found the darkness that had shrouded his soul gave way to the light of the truth. In 1865 he penned these words that summed up the truth that had set him free as he came to see that Christmas and Easter are not two gospel stories, but are intrinsically part of the one story, “Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
the Cross be borne for me, for you”. Dix realised that the message of Christmas was not an irrelevancy but was the plea to both the lukewarm Christian and the unforgiven sinner from the God of the Universe to be reconciled, “Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading”. It was Dix’s hope that the profound truth expressed in his carol could open the eyes of the blind, whether they be a “peasant” or a “king”.

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping,
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary!

Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The Cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh,
The babe, the son of Mary!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him!
The King of Kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him!
Raise, raise the song on high!
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy! joy! for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary!

William Chatterton Dix, 1865, Glasgow U.K.

There is something powerful about the grace of beautiful music cradling the truth of God’s revelation to mankind in song (Col. 1:6).

¶ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:14, 17

The grace and the truth expressed in the classic Christmas Carols brings great joy to this preacher who strives to produce biblically and theologically informed followers of Christ. It’s one the reasons why this preacher also serves as a gate-keeper over the songs that use at Legana because I know that most of my sermons are long forgotten soon after they are preached yet what we sing on a Sunday rings in our hearts for years to come. This is no doubt why singing, music, hymns, has always been integral to Christian worship (Eph. 5:19). The consolation that us forgettable preachers have though is that most good song-writers were, and are, biblically/theologically informed by faithful preachers. May the magnitude of what we sing this Advent grip our hearts, enlighten our souls and fill us each with joy inexpressible. Merry Christmas.

 

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

8 Comments

  1. LYDIA

    “There is something powerful about the grace of beautiful music cradling the truth of God’s revelation to mankind in song (Col. 1:6).”
    There is Andrew.

    Without many knowing they are still singing the Truth of Scripture, the Gospel which we rejoice in – The Immanuel, God with us. Michael Card does a splendid job too in singing his Christmas song.

    “It’s one (of) the reasons why this preacher also serves as a gate-keeper over the songs…”. Thank you Andrew!

    This was THE first thing that hit me when I sat on the Legana Christian Church’s seat…no pews:)…that the music was as I had been used to for 12 years back in NSW, where we also had a preacher who was a faithful gate-keeper of the music used in the church services there. So this meant I knew I was at ‘home’ here. I knew that if the music was sound, theologically sound, then all would be well, irrespective of whether I knew anyone at all in the congregation itself. It was indicative of what I heard and would eventually listen to every single Sunday, the Truth of God’s Word. I guess one could say they go hand in glove. This gives or has given to me anyway security and trust.

    God is good indeed! Praise God for faithful preachers everywhere who use the songs written in love towards Him and have done throughout the ages, coupled with the preaching, to feed their sheep and honour and adore Him!

    Thanks for the Pastor’s Desk writings this year!

    Reply
    • Wendy Williams

      Beautifully and sincerely written Lydia, and God has blessed all at Legana with your presence in our community.

      Reply
      • LYDIA

        Thank you Wendy:)

        Reply
      • LYDIA

        Thank you Andrew. God is good…

        Reply
  2. Alan

    Totally agree with these excellent thoughts, Andrew. Well done. It will be no surprise to you that I am a big advocate of keeping the great hymns of the faith alive by using them in worship not just at special seasons, but throughout the year. Their words are rich in meaning and they were written to be very suitable for congregational singing without needing complex musical backing.

    Reply
  3. Wendy Williams

    Andrew, thank you to you and the whole Corbett family for such dedication to Christ. And for the sacrifices you all make to enable the Legana community to access Jesus teachings and the excellent biblical knowledge transfer via Andrew’s Spirit filled gift of the truthful, outpouring of God’s love.

    Not an easy gig, but one undertaken by you Andrew, with grace filled commitment, proving how our present reality is supported, day after relentless day, with Jesus gift to us of the Holy Spirit. For Christians, nothing is “happenstance” or “coincidence”. Our lives are daily impacted by the Holy Spirit. It’s only a matter of saying Yes to Christ.

    Picked that up from some bloke standing at a gate, spruking the love of God😁👍.

    Reply
    • Legana Christian Church

      Thank you Wendy. That’s very gracious of you. You are a great encouragement to me and to many in our church family.
      -A.

      Reply

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.