Posted by: rcottrill | September 8, 2014

Dear Little Stranger

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Words: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (b. Aug. 18, 1856; d. Sept. 15, 1932)
Music: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel

Wordwise Hymns (Charles Gabriel)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This 1899 Christmas carol seems to have been written for children in the Sunday School. The gentle lilting melody gives it the feel of a lullaby.

When the Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth, He did not exhibit the splendour and majesty attending Him from all eternity. He was born to a peasant woman, in impoverished circumstances, and His first cradle was a manger. A Roman edict had brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, but a sovereign providence was behind this.

“So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk. 2:6-7).

Relatively few recognized who He was (and is). To some He remained “the carpenter’s son” from Nazareth (Matt. 13:55; 21:11). To the Jewish leaders He was scorned as a blasphemer. They certainly denied His deity (Jn. 10:33). In that sense He was a “stranger” to them.

“He came to that which belonged to Him [to His own—His domain, creation, things, world], and they who were His own did not receive Him and did not welcome Him” (Jn. 1:11, Amplified Bible).

Quite a few gospel songs build on the thought that Jesus was a stranger to the world. They did not know or appreciate who He truly is. For example, there is The Stranger of Galilee, by Lelia Morris; Let Him In (“There’s a Stranger at the door…”), by Jonathan Atchinson; Gentle Mary Laid Her Child (“To the world a Stranger…”), by Joseph Cook; and Robert MacGimsey’s modern-day Spiritual, Sweet Little Jesus Boy (“We didn’t know who You was.”).

Charles Gabriel’s carol calls Christ a Stranger, but he leaves no doubt as to the identity of this One who was born long ago in Bethlehem. To Christians he is “dear.” The hymn writer would agree with Peter when he wrote:

“[He is the One] whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (I Pet. 1:8).

CH-1) Low in a manger, dear little Stranger,
Jesus, the wonderful Saviour, was born.
There was none to receive Him, none to believe Him,
None but the angels were watching that morn.

Dear little Stranger, slept in a manger,
No downy pillow under His head;
But with the poor He slumbered secure,
The dear little Babe in His bed.

The incarnation of the Son of God was revealed to some shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem. Many of their sheep were no doubt destined to be offered as sacrifices on the temple altar in nearby Jerusalem. But to them the coming of the Lamb of God was announced by angels (Lk. 2:8-14), and they glorified and praised God to learn about Him (Lk. 2:20).

CH-2) Angels descending, over Him bending,
Chanted a tender and silent refrain;
Then a wonderful story told of His glory,
Unto the shepherds on Bethlehem’s plain.

In his final stanza, Charles Gabriel clearly declares the identity of this “Stranger.” He is the “Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all.” This is exactly what the Bible tells us. (Note the repeated use of the word “all.”)

¤ He is the Maker. “All things were made through Him” (Jn. 1:3; cf. Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:2).

¤ He is the Monarch. “He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36; cf. Jer. 23:5-6; Dan. 7:13-14; Mic. 5:2; Lk. 2:11)

¤ He is the Saviour. “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6; cf. Jn. 1:29; I Tim. 2:5-6).

CH-3) Dear little Stranger, born in a manger,
Maker and Monarch, and Saviour of all;
I will love You forever! Grieve You? No, never!
You did for me make Your bed in a stall.

1) What are some reasons why the Lord Jesus is still a “stranger” to many?

2) What can you do to help introduce Him to others?

Wordwise Hymns (Charles Gabriel)
The Cyber Hymnal


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