Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Incarnation Hymn

Most of our Christmas hymns in the English-speaking world tend to reflect on the characters and events of the Christmas narrative: the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, the manger. By contrast, the oldest tradition of Christian hymnography preferred to emphasize the theological wonder of the incarnation in their Christmas hymns. Here's a hymn I wrote this week, inspired by those songs of the early church (particularly Ephrem the Syrian's hymns on the nativity). It's written to the tune of the classic 19th-century Christmas hymn, "In the Bleak Midwinter" (the tune is called "Cranham," by Gustav T. Holst, now in the public domain; it's been modified only slightly by having the final note of the third full line rise instead of fall). You can read my lyrics below, or, by clicking on the video, you can listen to the hymn being sung by a modestly mediocre singer.

Incarnation Hymn

In a little stable,
      Down in Bethlehem,
The King of endless worlds was
      Incarnate as a man.
God’s own holy Wisdom,
      In great humility,
Became a little baby,
      Just like you and me.

The Word that knit the universe
      Was knit in Mary’s womb,
The tapestry of ages,
      Upon her humble loom.
She obeyed where Eve had sinned,
      And with her act of faith,
The Maker took our nature,
      To save our sinful race.

The Infinite made finite,
      Omnipotent made weak,
The Ruler of eternity
      Was rendered small and meek.
The universe could not contain
      The greatness of our Lord,
But in that tiny baby
      Was all His fullness poured.

We praise you, God the Father,
      For sending us your Son,
Foretold by Thy sweet Spirit:
      The blessed Three-in-One!
Make your servants holy,
      Like that baby boy,
Born on Christmas morning,
      To fill the earth with joy.