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Thursday, January 5, 2017
As they offered gifts most rare
at thy manger, rude and bare,
so may we with holy joy,
pure and free from sin’s alloy,
all our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to thee, our heavenly king.
Holy Jesus, every day
keep us in the narrow way;
and when earthly things are past,
bring our ransomed souls at last
where they need no star to guide,
where no clouds thy glory hide.
William Chatterton Dix’s “As with Gladness Men of Old”
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal
In solitude we can listen to the voice of him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the results of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It’s there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and that the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received.
—Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude
The carol upon which we reflect today was written by the masterful hymnist William Chatterton Dix. However, he wrote it during a period in his life that followed a long illness. Having been confined to his bed for months, his isolation led to a profound depression. It is likely that, at the time he penned the words we joyfully sing during Christmas, Dix did not feel the same “gladness” he attributes to the magi.
So perhaps this explains the last verse. The first three verses ask us (the singers) to imitate the magiin their glad and joyful comprehension of God’s advent among us, their adoration of Christ, and their happy offering in response. The first three verses alone make the observance of Christmas seem like an exercise in human action and discipline. Yet the final verse is entirely different: it’s a prayer in which Dix causes us all to call out to Jesus to help us and that makes it clear that only in the divinely ordered future will we truly experience the full joy of the season.
During these days when the hustle and bustle of the Christmas rush is past—now that we are done with all of our doing—perhaps we can take some time to sit in solitude. Let us realize that it is only by God’s action in our lives and in our hearts that we will know gladness approaching that which filled the hearts of those who beheld the Christ child so long ago.
God of Christmas Joy, in the chaos of these days help me to take the time to be still so that I might be attentive to your presence, to the coming of your Christ. As I do so, may the words I speak and the love I share be your will at work in me—and may I feel the deep gladness that comes from your presence. Amen.
Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism
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