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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Book Review: The Marrow of Modern Divinity, by Edward Fisher | Main | Merry Christmas! »

    The Nativity

    I

    How wondrous is the light
    That shineth in the darkness of the world!
    That shineth from above,
    That cometh from the first,
    Before the world’s foundations had been laid;
    That scattereth the darkness
    Which comprehendeth not;
    That openeth the eyes of men
    Who will not understand;
    Bright as the image of the Father’s glory; –
    Bright as the dawn of the day of creation; –
    Brighter than the midnight stars;
    Proclaiming all the promises of God,
    Full of grace and truth.

    What night is this?
    What blessed night is this?
    The stars begin to twinkle through the mist;
    The clouds begin to race across the sky;
    The snow begins to glisten in the fields;
    The breezes cease to sigh;
    The pine trees cease their moan;
    The earth still hurrying on its trackless path
    Through myriad worlds all rolling to decay
    Still cleaves the night, and hastens on its way,
    Tracing its endless course around the sun;
    And the perpetual groan
    Of all creation briefly seems to halt:
    The world slips off her shackles for a space,
    And leaves behind the curse of endless years.
    The stars of dawn rejoice!
    The sons of morning shout!
    The heavens raise their song
    In giddiest exultation,
    And strow their richest chords
    Upon the world beneath;
    All nature lifts a ringing voice of praise!
    It is the night when darkness shall dispel; –
    It is the night when tears shall flee away; –
    It is the night when sin shall be destroyed; –
    Sorrow and mourning shall cease;
    The redeemed of the Lord shall rejoice,
    And come with singing to the holy mount;
    The crooked shall be straight;
    The hills shall be made low;
    And peace shall flourish like a mighty stream.
    Tonight the promised Christ
    Shall come upon the earth,
    And God shall dwell among the sons of men;
    Messiah cometh to the world,
    And righteousness shall spring up in his steps!

    Angel I

    ‘Four hundred silent years!
    Four hundred silent years, and who could guess
    That God would speak to Israel once more
    Not through the visions of the past; –
    Not through the holy men of old; –
    Not through the prophets; –
    But through his Son, the image of himself?’

    Angel II

    ‘Eternal Word!
    Eternal Word of God!
    The glory of the Lord become incarnate!
    The Spirit breathed the word
    Into the tongues of men,
    The life and light of promise from above; –
    But now the Word himself,
    Of everlasting life and light,
    Is manifest in flesh –
    The world can now behold the form of God!’

    Angel III

    ‘The world of men:
    Aye! all of mankind now –
    For this is he of whom the prophet spake,
    That all who call upon him shall be blessed;
    The righteous Branch of David;
    The King of all the earth;
    Whose name shall be ‘THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS!’

    Angel IV

    ‘The King of all nations!
    The Judge of all peoples!
    Who bringeth a new covenant;
    Who wipeth away all tears;
    Whose kingdom never ends:
    God blessed forever!
    The nations shall bow down before his throne,
    Their swords shall be made ploughshares,
    Their children play upon the serpents’ den,
    Their lambs lie down with wolves and fear no harm!’

    Chorus

    Hush, ye hills; flow softly, river;
    Shed, ye stars, a gentle light;
    Hush, the Maker of forever
    Cometh on the breast of night:
    Trembling world, receive him!
    Sinful men, believe him!
    Peace! he cometh to dissever
    Life from death – from darkness, light.

    Hush, O town, so softly sleeping,
    Softly wait thy coming King;
    Hush, the peaceful hours creeping
    To thy streets thy sovereign bring:
    Silent city, meet him!
    King and peasant, greet him!
    Bethlehem! cease now thy weeping,
    Let thy glad hosannas ring!

    II

    Behold the shining star
    That glimmers on the night,
    And casts her radiance far across the earth!
    Lighting up the fields and forests,
    Shimmering on the streams,
    Glancing through the clouds and mist,
    Dancing with the waves,
    Bathing all the nations of the world
    In a soft effulgence.
    But lo! the rays
    Are gathered into one intenser beam;
    The lustre of that whiter, brighter beam
    Pierces the darkness of a humble stall.

    Chorus

    Star of night, that brightly glowest,
    Shine upon the heart of man;
    Brightly shine! he whom thou knowest
    Knew thee ere the world began;
    Shine, bright star, that, as thou growest,
    Lightest up redemption’s plan.


    A humble stall, the residence of beasts:
    Rough-hewn timbers, unworked stone;
    All bare, but for one structure in the midst,
    A rugged, lowly manger,
    Filled with fresh-cut hay; –
    Is this the place
    Made ready for the advent of a king?
    This humble stall
    The birthplace of a king?

    Angel I

    ‘He cometh to his own –

    Angel II

    ‘But his own receive him not.’

    Angel III

    ‘The world is made by him –

    Angel IV

    ‘But the world hath known him not’

    Angel I

    ‘A tender babe –
    Can this be he, this tender, helpless babe?
    Or is this he of whom the prophet spake,
    That he shall rule the earth
    In righteousness and peace,
    And judge the nations with an iron rod?
    That in his perfect reign, mercy and truth
    Shall kiss each other?’

    Angel V

    ‘Aye! but this is he
    Of whom that prophet spake, that he shall grow
    Before him as a tender plant,
    Who hath no lovely form,
    No kingly comeliness,
    A man despised, with grief above all men;
    Whose back shall bear men’s stripes
    In payment for men’s sins;
    Who smitten more than any other man
    Shall conquer sin.’

    Angel I

    ‘A tender plant –
    And thus he lies
    In yonder stall a tender, helpless babe.’

    Chorus

    Sweetly sleeps the little child,
    On his little bed of hay;
    Sweetly looks the virgin mild
    On the Saviour tucked away;
    Tenderly the oxen loweth,
    Lovingly the white dove cooeth,
    Reverently the young lamb boweth
    To the Christ child born this day.

    Gently plays the light around him
    In the stall where he is laid;
    Gently hath the starlight found him,
    Child for whom the star was made!
    Reverently the starlight falleth,
    Tenderly the soft breeze calleth,
    Lovingly his mother lulleth
    Soft to sleep his little head.

    Angel II

    ‘A tender babe –
    The Saviour of the world;
    A lowly stall –
    The dwellingplace of God.’

    Angel III

    ‘ How small the hand
    From which sprang all the morning stars!
    How black the night
    From which shall issue everlasting light!
    And from this land
    That groaneth black and dead –
    And from these streets
    Of humble Bethlehem –
    True life hath risen that shall conquer death!’

    Chorus

    Bethlehem, that liest sleeping
    In the stillness of the night,
    Silently thy vigil keeping,
    Yonder breaks eternal light!
    Hark! the starry host rejoices,
    Lifting up their ringing voices,
    Lo! the starry heavens leaping
    Greet the world in raiment bright!

    Town of Bethlehem, why groan ye,
    When the heavenly hosts rejoice?
    Little town, no longer moan ye –
    Break forth in exulting noise!
    Peace! for it is he that made thee
    Cometh down from heav’n to aid thee –
    And the child that doth own thee,
    Own thy king with one glad voice!

    III

    Silent is the night:
    No movement in the air,
    No sudden winter breeze,
    Disturbs the slumber of the breathless world;
    Silent is the tender night –
    But with a nameless air of expectation;
    Silent is the night:
    And cold, and dark;
    Beneath the distant stars,
    In wooly rest,
    Lie peacefully a gentle flock of sheep,
    Dimming the frosty stars with misty breath;
    Their shepherds looking on in calm repose
    Break now and then the stillness
    With a muttered sigh,
    Or stamp their feet against the frozen earth.
    The world awaits the coming of her God.

    Angel I

    ‘How silently the city lies!
    No joyous shout,
    No ringing accolade,
    No harbinger of everlasting triumph
    Bears witness to the coming of a King;
    And can it be
    That this most blessed moment of all times
    Should go unnoticed?’

    Angel V

    ‘Nay, for there below,
    In silence keeping watch,
    The shepherds wait, to whom we go;
    Arise, and let us hence:
    We bring the message of eternal life,
    The brightness of the land of Israel,
    The blessed hope of all men everywhere;
    The earth awaits the word of God:
    Let us go.’

    Tender is the night:
    Silent is the world;
    But lo! across the peaceful sky,
    A blaze of glorious light!
    The heavens are riven, and a dreadful form,
    Strowing his splendor o’er the earth
    In terrible brilliance,
    Is manifested to the men below;
    His raiment is as light,
    His countenance like lightning,
    The whole earth trembles at his flashing gaze,
    And shudders at his awe-inspiring voice.

    Angel V

    ‘Fear not! for behold
    I bring to you good tidings of great joy,
    And peace unto all people everywhere;
    For unto you this day
    In humble Bethlehem
    Is born a Saviour which is Christ the Lord;
    And this shall be the sign:
    The child ye shall find
    All humbly wrapped and in a manger laid.’

    Chorus

    Glory to God in the highest!
    Goodwill to men on earth;
    Judah, that hitherto sighedst,
    Rejoice in his matchless worth;
    Israel, that languishing liest,
    Arise – ‘tis thy Saviour’s birth.

    Glory to God! and forever
    On the earth be peace;
    He hath forsaken thee never –
    Nor shall his goodwill cease;
    None from his light shall he sever –
    His goodness will only increase.

    The world is dark –
    The sudden bright angelic effulgence,
    As quickly as it came,
    Departing, left the former silent night:
    The wayward flock of sheep
    Are scattered on the hill,
    The shepherds’ warming fire
    Has sunken into coals,
    The frosty world is peaceful as before;
    For, lo, the men
    Who sitting spellbound heard the heavenly host,
    Forsaking all their watch,
    Are come to Bethlehem,
    And humbly kneeling in a lowly stall:
    Coarse, rustic men, yet honored over all,
    And chosen from the princes of the world;
    Called out to hear the message of the Lord,
    The hope of all the earth,
    And worship the Redeemer of the world.


    IV

    This is the night of hope,
    That foldeth in its breast the promised seed;
    This is the night of perfect peace:
    The stars
    Shed forth their softest light;
    The breezes gently sigh;
    The river flows in peace;
    The waves leap high with joy;
    All nature greets her God come down to earth,
    And all the calm influences of night
    Gather together in a lowly stall,
    To bow before their Lord;
    This is the night of joy –
    But where are they
    To whom God condescends in mean estate?
    This is the promised Christ –
    Alone but for a few unlovely men
    That worship in his stall.
    Where are the kings,
    When he hath come who is the King of kings?
    And where are Judah’s lords,
    When in her coasts resides the Lord of lords?
    This is the night of hope,
    Unheeded by the world of stricken men.
    This child is the hope of Israel –
    The seed of Israel –
    Will Israel in scorn lift up her hand,
    To slay the King of glory?

    Angel I

    ‘Behold the Lamb of God,
    That sinless beareth all the sins of men!
    Behold the spotless Lamb,
    The Saviour of the earth,
    Despised of men, yet come in their behalf!
    Will men reject their Lord,
    Who cometh to make peace for them with God?’

    Angel IV

    ‘Behold, I see a day; –
    All of creation groans; –
    The whole earth trembles, and the sun is dimmed:
    The hour of darkness hath arrived,
    When men arise to slay the Lord of Light.’

    Chorus

    Groan, ye hills, weep forth your story;
    All your tearful homage bring:
    They have slain the Lord of glory –
    They have crucified your king;
    Tremble, earth! Ye fields, be riven!
    Lo! the sun itself grew dim,
    When that darkness strove with him –
    See the place where they have striven.

    See the grave where they have placed him
    Lifeless in the black of night:
    It is opened! God hath raised him
    Unto everlasting light.
    Sing, ye hills, your wondrous story!
    Darkness’ power strove in vain –
    Lo! the veil is rent in twain,
    For he lives the Lord of glory!


    V

    In a lowly stable,
    In a humble manger,
    In swaddling clothes all meanly tucked away,
    Lieth in a calm repose
    The Maker of the earth,
    The Shaper of the world,
    The craftsman of the womb that gave him birth:
    Master of light!
    Mover of storms!
    Former of man!
    The everlasting Father –
    Almighty God made manifest in flesh,
    Emmanuel.

    There he lieth,
    King of glory,
    Spotless lamb of God in servant’s form;
    But this is he
    Before whom ev’ry knee shall bow,
    Whom ev’ry tongue shall own as Lord,
    The image of the form of the Most High;
    Redeemer of the world,
    Conqueror of death,
    Lamb slain from the foundation of the world;
    The righteous Judge,
    The everlasting God,
    A tender babe –
    But when his work is done,
    He cometh soon again in all his glory.

    Angel III

    ‘There he lieth,
    In his manger,
    Shepherd of the flock of God;
    There he lieth on his bed of grass
    Who sendeth rain and causeth grass to grow;
    There graspeth for a straw
    The hand that holds the oceans of the world.’

    Angel IV

    ‘He made all things –
    And by his word all things consist;
    He formed the world –
    And now he cometh to redeem his own;
    All things were made by him –
    He cometh to make all things right again.’

    Angel V

    ‘He cometh to redeem the world,
    And bear the sins of many,
    To win an everlasting name of glory:
    For of him, and through him, and to him are all things:
    To whom be glory forever.’

    Chorus

    Behold the Lord! heed now his might!
    He cometh from his throne on high:
    Surrounded with a robe of light,
    Now he descendeth from the sky.

    Zion rejoice! the Shepherd’s arm
    Shall ever guide and comfort thee;
    Thy Saviour reigns! then fear no harm;
    He ever will thy Shepherd be.

    He holdeth seas within his hand,
    And with his scales he weighs the earth;
    The starry heavens hath he spanned;
    He knoweth all the mountains’ worth.

    O round of stone, now cease thy groan –
    Slip off the curse, lift up thy voice:
    For Christ hath come into his home;
    Ye kindreds, nations, tongues, rejoice!

    The bloody swords of earth’s war-lords
    Are beaten into scythes again;
    The young lambs rest on the lion’s breast,
    And children play on the serpents’ den!

    An iron rod – the reign of God –
    And now at last a peaceful earth!
    Let goodness ride a mighty tide –
    Bring in this old world’s great rebirth!

    Great God above! thy pow’r and love
    Through all the world are rung:
    Let leap the fame of Jesus’ name
    From ev’ry joyous tongue!

    Posted by Nathan on December 24, 2009 10:13 AM

    Comments

    Who wrote this? It's wonderful :)

    Hi Jen,

    I wrote it -- thanks for the kind words!

    You can read more of my poems, if you're interested, here:

    http://psalm45publications.com/c/poems/

    By, the way, I'm Nathan -- forgot to leave my name.

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