The Trinity Hymnal carries a 1961 copyright date, but some lyrics convey truths about the Incarnation that many other Christmas hymns and carols miss. John Newton penned a hymn I find particularly appropriate for Christmas. As a former slave ship captain, Newton experienced God’s grace and became a transformed man. Most people associate him wit “Amazing Grace.” But do you know Newton’s hymn, “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder”?
Let us love, and sing, and wonder,
Let us praise the Savior’s name!
He has hushed the law’s loud thunder,
He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame.
The true wonder of Christmas lies in Christ’s accomplishment: He alone could hush the Law’s demands for perfection, something the chosen people of Israel, nor we, can ever do. Consider chapter 26 of Leviticus in the Old Testament. The first 13 verses promise all the blessings Israel will receive if they forego idolatry and follow Mount Sinai’s law. Starting at verse 15, however, the punishments begin in earnest if Israel does not keep the law’s demands.
15“But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. 18And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, 19and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit. 21“Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted. 23“And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.
Thanks to the Incarnation, Jesus hushed and quenched because we fail every time. In living sinlessly and giving us the greatest inheritance ever, Christ bought us.
Verses two through five move us to love, sing, wonder and praise God beyond salvation to the battles of real life. Consider these lyrics and you’ll find gritty situations that fit your life. More important, you’ll find what you need to face the difficulties of this life. You can rest because Christ alone can make Justice smile.
2 Let us love the Lord, who bought us,
Pitied us when enemies;
Called us by his grace, and taught us,
Gave us ears, and gave us eyes.
3 Let us sing, though fierce temptations
Threaten hard to bear us down!
For the Lord, our strong salvation,
Holds in view the conqueror’s crown,
4 Let us wonder, grace and justice
Join and point to mercy’s store;
When we trust in Christ our fortress,
Justice smiles, and asks no more.
Verses five and six have a definite ring of a Christmas carol!
5 Let us praise and join the chorus
Of the saints enthroned on high;
Here they trusted him before us,
Now their praises fill the sky.
6 Hark! the name of Jesus, sounded
Loud, from golden harps above!
Lord we blush, and are confounded,
Faint our praise, and cold our love!
Much of the unexpected happened that first Christmas — unexpected taxes, unexpected unpleasant accommodations, unexpected heavenly host singing from the skies, bewildered shepherds led to a cave by angels’ proclamations. Why not follow that pattern and try a new Christmas carol this season?