Posted by: rcottrill | June 3, 2011

As with Gladness Men of Old

Words: William Chatterton Dix (b. June 14, 1837; d. Sept. 9, 1898)
Music: Dix, by Conrad Kocher (b. Dec. 16, 1786; d. Mar. 12, 1872)

Wordwise Hymns
Discovering the Songs of Christmas
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: For articles on the history and meaning of 63 of our carols and Christmas hymns (including As with Gladness Men of Old), see my book, Discovering the Songs of Christmas, available from Amazon.

As…so… The words make a comparison for the purpose of giving insight and understanding. The Bible uses this method often. For example, here are three verses from Psalm 103:

¤ “As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:11-13).

The technique is also used frequently in the book of Proverbs:

¤ “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion” (Prov. 11:22).
¤ “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country” (Prov. 25:25).

In each case, our understanding of what is being taught is illuminated by the comparison. And that is the technique William Dix used in our hymn–actually, a Christmas carol that tells of the visit of the wise men to the Lord Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 2:1-12.

CH-1: As the wise men were led to the feet of Christ, so may we be led to Him. In their case, they followed a supernatural star. In our case, we are prompted by the Spirit of God. First of all convicted of our sin, and led to Christ for salvation. Then, as believers, we brought, led day by day, into fellowship with Him, by that same Holy Spirit.

CH-2 continues the theme by describing the joyful mood of the wise men, as they envisioned the fulfilment of their quest (Matt. 2:10), with Mr. Dix urging us to seek the place of prayer with the same enthusiasm.

CH-3 deals with the gifts of the wise men. “As…so…”

As they offered gifts most rare
At that 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.

“Gifts most rare,” brought to a “manger rude and bare.” How ironic! The place did not at all reflect the worth of the One who was found there. But they weren’t discouraged by the surroundings. They came seeking the King, and the “fell down and worshiped Him,” presenting the gifts they had brought (Matt. 2:11). In a similar manner, we are exhorted to come with holy joy, and present our costliest treasures to Christ. First of all, to present ourselves as His willing servants (Rom. 12:1; II Cor. 8:5), and then to lay before Him our time, our talents and our treasures, putting them at His disposal.

The final two stanzas of the hymn point us forward to the day when we stand in the presence of Christ, worshiping and praising Him for all eternity. CH-5 is unfortunately omitted from many hymnals, but it provides a fitting conclusion to a wonderful hymn.

In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!

1) What are some qualities of the wise men, that set a good example for us?

2) Why is it important to present ourselves to the Lord first, before offering Him other gifts (Rom. 12:1; II Cor. 8:5)?

Wordwise Hymns
Discovering the Songs of Christmas
The Cyber Hymnal


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