Saturday, December 24, 2011

What a Mighty Love Was Thine... A Message for Christmas, 2011

See Amid the Winter’s Snow…
See amid the winter’s snow,
Born for us on Earth below,
See, the tender lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years!

One of my favourite Christmas Carols is See Amid the Winter’s Snow. Although it was voted one of England’s favourite carols (at least according to the BBC website) many do not seem to be familiar with it.  It is a great Victorian carol with words from Edward Caswall (1814-1878), set to the tune “Humility” by John Goss (1800-1880). Caswell is also known for several other favourite Victorian hymns, perhaps the best known being When Morning Gilds the Skies, and Earth Has Many a Noble City.  Goss is known for composing the tune to the perennial favourite, Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven.

 The carol See Amid the Winter’s Snow, is one of those carols that captures the deep theological mystery of Christmas, that profound and moving reality of God with us.   The first two lines of the second verse makes this proclamation, at once majestic and humbling:

Lo, within a manger lies,
He who built the starry skies …

The God who created the heavens and the earth is found in the lowliest of estates, lying in a cattle trough.  The one the universe cannot contain allows himself to be contained in the womb of Mary his mother.  The one who knew neither time nor space enters into time and sleeps on bed of straw.  The one whose majesty is beyond compare condescends to make himself known in the most humble of conditions, a child in poverty.  The one who is beyond human comprehension becomes the one who can be cradled by loving human arms.  The mystery of Christmas is that the God who is above and beyond all, chooses to be a part of our small world and a part of our lives. 

Sacred infant, all divine
What a mighty love was thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss,
Down to such a world as this?

As we look about the world around us, it may seem at times that it is not worth saving, that things have gone from bad to worse and that it is beyond repair and restoration.  But through the eyes of God, it is worth it, we are worth it. The world and all its people are worth saving and are of immeasurable value to God.  Yes, the creator of the universe cares for this world and loves all its people, so much so that from highest bliss, he comes to us as a little child.  What a mighty love was thine. 

Thus, as Christmas comes one again, we extol that mighty love with our hymns and carols of praise and humble gratitude.  We sing our carols to give thanks, we sing them to remind ourselves of the love of God poured out for us, and we sing them to offer a word of hope to the world and those around us that the loving God is forever reaching out to us in the sacred infant of Bethlehem.

Hail, Thou ever blessed morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem:
Christ is born in Bethlehem!

The Choir of St. Paul's Cathedral, London