"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Thursday, December 16, 2021

O HOLY NIGHT – A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE


~ by James Fire

The one thing that I love the most about the Christmas season are the traditional Christmas carols – and by these, I am NOT referring to Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman or O Christmas tree.

I’m referring to those blessed ballads that speak of the new born King, the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world. He most likely wasn’t born on December the 25th – that was known throughout the ancient world as Saturnalia, a pagan festival of debauchery where Romans sated carnal lusts. He was in all probability born in the Spring or the Autumn season (and there are good arguments for both).

The idea of Christmas trees, mistletoe, holly, rituals and games as being non-Christian along with other pagan accoutrements and whether Christians should avoid any and all such associations would be the subject for another time.

Whenever it was that the birth of Christ took place, the blessed reality is that He was in fact born into this world: for all eternity, long before the creation of time, space and matter/energy, He sat at the right hand of the Father, and it was understood by the Three Members of the Godhead that man would fall from his right standing and would incur the judgment and subsequent wrath of GOD.

Unless GOD intervened, the entire race would be doomed.
It was agreed upon since before the foundation of the Earth that the Son would take up the mission of Atonement (REV 13:8), and it came to pass that He stood up from the right hand of the Father, He took a single step in the eternal halls of heaven and stepped out of eternity and into our time domain – and infused His Spirit with the procreative egg of a lowly peasant girl named Mary, of the house of David, from the tribe of Judah: the kingly line!

The rest is history as recorded in Holy Writ. And in the various Christmas Carols that everyone knows. It’s not surprising that these are rife with biblical doctrine as so many of them were penned by pastors and godly poets. Among them I have my favorites – and as you rightly surmise, O Holy Night is among them.
Would you accompany me for a while as I muse upon these lyrics and expound upon their Scriptural relevance?

History and facts about O Holy Night.
O Holy Night is a wonderful Christmas Carol composed in 1847 by the French composer Adolphe Adam.
The original lyrics to O Holy Night is from a French poem named Minuit, Chrétiens – in English “Midnight Christians” – written by Placide Cappeau. The English lyrics were written by the minister John Sullivan Dwight. For details on this and a couple other fascinating facts about this Carol, check out this short article.
And Josh Groban sings a wonderful rendition to this time-honored favorite here.

And now for the lyrics and some of exposition:

O HOLY NIGHT
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
.”

Theologians and seminary professors refer to this astounding miracle as the hypostatic union: the perfect unification of GOD as Deity and man as Humanity in the Person of Christ Jesus.
Think of it! The Creator left eternity and joined His creation by entering the space/time continuum of His created world. He saw, heard, tasted, felt everything with human sensation. GOD knew experientially what it is to be human.

He took His first few steps and stumbled as every baby has done since Cain and Abel. He knew what it was like to have parents and siblings and childhood friends (I imagine He got along well with His cousin Yohanan, son of Zacharias and Elizabeth – later known as ‘John the Baptist’).
The greatest part of the incarnation was not only that GOD realized what it was like to be human (on an experiential level; ROM 8:3b) but that He could speak on behalf of His Father so that we would realize what GOD is like. So that we would know His heart of love towards His fallen humanity and come to understand what He was ready to sacrifice in order to prove that love!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth
.”

Scripture states that all creation groans and travails under the curse of sin – not just mankind but the animal and plant kingdoms as well (ROM 8:22) under the taxing, burdensome weight of sin. And long has it lay upon this weary world, for six thousand years at least!

“[Un]til” – this word sparks a hope long thought to be extinguished by the miserable monotony of man’s spiritual malady. It very much reminds me of the verse that tells us that we…
1…who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” (EPH 2:1-5)

The worth that our souls felt wasn’t something integral to humanity (for all have sinned (ROM 3:23)), but rather the worth that was imputed to us as we were purchased by the inestimably valuable blood of the LAMB (ROM 4)!

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
.”

Something to consider: whereas this truth infused in people of faith a renewed hope upon hearing these “glad tidings”, it sent a shard of icy chills down the backs of two kings who saw this infant from Bethlehem as a rival that threatened their reign:

The first was Herod the Great, the Roman appointed king of the Jews, and the second is Satan, the god of this world – who used Herod’s paranoia in an attempt to accomplish his diabolical purpose to slay the Messiah before He could crush his head as was promised (GEN 3:15).

For Satan particularly, this wasn’t a blessed carol, but rather a cry of battle that would signal an end of this long war and the end of his own rule over this fallen world (LUKE 4:6). He knew that the dark night of his domain would be ruined by the might of the Messiah’s morning in all of His brilliance!

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine
.”

Satan desired Christ to fall on His knees and worship in exchange for rule over the world; essentially Satan’s bid was, “Bow to me and You can avoid the Cross! I’ll give You the world You came for!”
Instead, because the LORD Jesus refused Satan at every turn and proved Himself as the sinless LAMB of GOD (1 PET 1:19), without spot, He proved to be an acceptable sacrifice and willingly laid down His life for our salvation (JOHN 10:17-18). And we fall to our knees in worship of the only One worthy of such! Jesus Christ, LORD of heaven and Earth!

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land
.”

King Herod wanted to kill Him, but these Kings – King Makers actually – were wise in that they sought JESUS out, not as Herod did, but in wisdom, for to worship the new born King of the Jews and Messiah of Israel.
An interesting point is that they presented to Him three costly gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh: gold to represent His Deity, frankincense to represent His holy priesthood, and myrrh to represent His supreme sacrifice (though there was another who offered something even more precious than these!).

During the Millennial Reign, the King of Israel will be presented with more such gifts of gold and frankincense, for He is GOD and High Priest, yet His sacrifice is finished (JOHN 19:30):

ISAIAH 60:1-6
1 Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. 3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 "Lift up your eyes all around, and see: They all gather together, they come to you; Your sons shall come from afar, And your daughters shall be nursed at your side. 5 Then you shall see and become radiant, And your heart shall swell with joy; Because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, The wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you. 6 The multitude of camels shall cover your land, The dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba shall come; They shall bring gold and incense, And they shall proclaim the praises of the LORD
.

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our Friend
.”

This One Who sat in regal majesty the heights of which are quite impossible for mortal man to imagine, worshiped and adored by angels, cherubim and seraphim – some of which were nearly god-like in their own right – was laid to rest “in such mean estate” in this “lowly manger”.

The incongruity of this sight is inconceivable for the broadest powers of the greatest intellect to truly comprehend! Yet our LORD was willing to be ‘born in a barn’, to such poor parents, and grew up in a ‘backwoods’ town like Nazareth out of a heart of love – for us!
What catches my breath is the imagery of a brilliant moonlit night, whose silver beams shining through a window in that shelter cast a shadow across the sleeping babe – in the shape of a cross.

That pink, tiny body – “so tender and mild”, would grow big and strong under strenuous work as a carpenter: in those days, there wasn’t a lot of wood to work with, and so stone was used quite a bit. So Jesus was practically a stone mason, and that meant heavy lifting!
Scripture tells us:

HEBREWS 10:5
Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me
.

That body was prepared for sacrifice and endured nightmarish torture under a merciless Roman soldier armed with a flesh-rending Cat O’ Nine Tails that was known to disembowel its victims! To say nothing of the agony of the Cross! Again, He did this willingly, as He extends His blood-stained, nail pierced hand in friendship to rebellious sinners as a Friend like no other!
It brings me to tears that this One, the LORD Jesus, should look upon me as His friend and demonstrate absolute truth in being a faithful Friend to me.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

And I do bend down before Him – and desire so very much to reflect His faithful friendship back to Him, for He is wholly worthy, my King Whose compassion for my weaknesses knows no equal! As the Chris Tomlin song goes: “Amazing love, how can it be? That You my King would die for me?

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.”

What the Law of GOD could not do, in that it was weak through [our sinful] flesh (ROM 8:3), Christ accomplished by His indwelling Spirit Who empowers us to love one another – as He Himself loves us! (JOHN 13:34-35).
What ruin sin brought upon us and this world with devastating effects to devilish delight also brought to humanity a hatred for one another. History is replete with man’s inhumanity to man with records undeniable and in flagrant disregard for GOD’s command that we should “love our neighbor as ourselves”.

There can be no “peace on earth and good will to men” if we are left to our own devices. Yet by His Law of love, saints born of the Holy Spirit, and in the reception of the Gospel – man can know peace with GOD (ROM 5:1) and ruin the ruinous effects of sin so that there can be peace among us.
All of this, this gentle love, this expansive peace is utterly impossible without the Spirit of GOD, but with Him – it becomes a reality!

Chains shall He break for the Slave is our Brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease
.”

JESUS is the Servant of YHWH (ISAIAH 42:1), always doing that which pleases the Father (JOHN 8:29). He Who is the slave, our Brother – has come to set the captive free:

ISAIAH 61:1-2a
1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD

It will be in the name (that is, the character, nature, attributes, authority) of JESUS CHRIST that every form of oppression and enslavement, perpetrated by both Satan and wicked souls will cease! In His kingdom there will be no more victimization of any one!

The weak will no longer fear!
Israel will no longer have any enemies!
And all of the ravages of sin that enslaves the multitudes of addicts, chained by all varieties of vile iniquities will be destroyed! We have yet to see true freedom in this world as Christ intends for it, except where the heart of man has been replaced by the new heart fresh breathed by GOD (EZEK 36:26; JOHN 3:3), setting the captives of sin free!

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name
.”

Once the church is transported into the heavenlies, to be ever with the LORD Jesus, our Bridegroom and gracious Savior (1 THESS 4:17), we will be singing such “sweet hymns of joy” as never experienced by the most godly of saints. And such gratitude and praise to the LORD for what He has done for us will take an eternity to express – but not a single saint will grow weary in that blessed endeavor!

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim,
His power and glory evermore proclaim
.”

We the saints, who understand and appreciate the sacrifice of Christ, and what it cost Him, as well as the Father, worship Christ as the very focus of this season - and truly, JESUS is the REASON of the SEASON as well as EVERY SEASON!

Yet for most of this world, this may as well be the festival of Saturnalia – one can hardly tell the difference these days!
As the Father looks down upon this world and sees how most ignore the sacrifice of His only begotten Son (JOHN 3:16), and go about their merry way, getting drunk, partying, involved in lewd and ungodly activities, His heart breaks.

It reminds me very much of a truly heart-breaking story about a bridge operator on the job and his son that he let tag along with him on that day. For that story, click the link here.

May we celebrate with blessed joy and peace the wondrous event of the First Holy Advent – or if you like, Blessed Incarnation Day – or the more traditional saying, Merry Christmas.

There are some who object to celebrating the birth of Christ as it’s not mentioned anywhere in Scripture – but I hardly need any such invitation. What wife wouldn’t rejoice at the homecoming of their husband who had been away for some years on military duty? Would she refrain and state that, “Honey, you never commanded me to do such, so I won’t!”??

The angels rejoiced at the birth of Christ; so did the shepherds, the wise men and certainly Joseph and Mary, as well as Simeon and Anna the prophetess and “those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem”. If they can, so can we saints!

Another thing: Do you suppose there will be a rather lot of celebration by the saints when the LORD Jesus returns to Earth to establish His Kingdom? Will there be rejoicing and an abundance of praises? If such is the case for the Second Advent, why not the First?

In any event saints – let us rejoice and be glad, for the LORD has come and brought redemption, granting forgiveness of sins and eternal life to the spiritually thirsty who are invited to come freely and drink of the rivers of living waters that the LORD Jesus provides (JOHN 7:37-38)!

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