A Wesleyan carol

by Richard on December 24, 2014

Although it was not until the Victorian period that the modern Christmas celebration was invented, Charles Wesley’s volume Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord went through 26 editions in his own lifetime. Where the Victorians would give us a sentimental vision of the baby in a manger, Wesley focusses on the mystery and paradox of God made flesh. Outside the Bible, has this ever been expressed more perfectly than in verse 1 of this hymn?

Let earth and heaven combine,
Angels and men agree,
To praise in songs divine
The incarnate Deity,
Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made man.

He laid his glory by,
He wrapped him in our clay;
Unmarked by human eye,
The latent Godhead lay;
Infant of days he here became,
And bore the mild Immanuel’s name.

See in that infant’s face
The depths of deity
And labour while ye gaze
To sound the mystery;
In vain; ye angels gaze no more,
But fall, and silently adore.

Unsearchable the love
That hath the Saviour brought;
The grace is far above
Or man or angels thought;
Suffice for us that God, we know,
Our God, is manifest below.

He deigns in flesh to appear,
Widest extremes to join;
To bring our vileness near,
And make us all divine:
And we the life of God shall know,
For God is manifest below.

Made perfect first in love,
And sanctified by grace,
We shall from earth remove,
And see his glorious face:
Then shall his love be fully showed,
And man shall then be lost in God.

Charles Wesley

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