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Words: (author unknown)
Music: Christmas Morn (or Hopkins), by Edward John Hopkins (b. June 30, 1818; d. Feb. 4, 1901)
Note: We do not know the author of this beautiful 1871 hymn. (The Cyber Hymnal currently has 1881 as a publishing date, but this seems to be a mistake.) The name of the hymn tune suggests it had a connection with Christmas and the gifts of the wise men. However, the text makes no mention of this, and the song is suitable for use any time.
The precious treasure we have in our children has not always been fully recognized. Some take the old view that they are expected to behave, and otherwise not intrude on the adult world. Versions of the saying, “Children should be seen and not heard” can be traced back to before the time of Christ.
Not all feel that way, of course. Years ago, the United Nations recommended to its member states that they establish a Universal Children’s Day, promoting the care of the young. Canada has done so, designating November 20th for that purpose since 1993.
When parents tried to bring their children to the Lord Jesus, His disciples presumed to shoo them away (Mk. 10:13). But “He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me’” (vs. 14). Commending the simple and sincere trust of childhood as an example to all (vs. 15), “He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them” (vs. 16).
That anyone would prey on vulnerable children is despicable. Yet it happens all the time. Child abuse, in various cruel and degrading forms, is in the news almost daily. Not the least of these wrongs is the plague of abortion. That a child begins life at conception can be demonstrated scientifically. Yet we hear much of a woman’s right to “plan parenthood,” and very little of the child’s right to live. The Lord will hold us accountable for turning a blind eye to this ongoing tragedy (cf. Prov. 31:8; Lk. 17:2).
In contrast, the Scriptures treat our children as a gift from God. When Esau asked his brother Jacob to identify the young who were with him, the latter responded, “[They are] the children whom God has graciously given your servant” (Gen. 33:5). The psalmist confirms this view: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord” (Ps. 127:3).
It’s the duty of parents to value God’s gift, not treat it as an unwanted nuisance. We are to “train up a child in the way he [or she] should go” (Prov. 22:6), “telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done” (Ps. 78:4), “that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice” (Gen. 18:19). To do anything less than this is to fail in our duty to them, and to God.
Many hymns have been written for children. Some good, some not so good. A sacred song for children ought not to talk down to them, as inferiors. Nor should it burden them with complex doctrinal concepts for which they are not ready. But with those cautions, we have some good ones in our hymnals.
Three hundred years ago, Isaac Watts (1674-1748) published a book including a children’s hymn about creation that we continue to use: I Sing the Mighty Power of God. In 1877, Mary Dodge (1831-1905) published another fine children’s hymn which begins, “Can a little child like me thank the Father fittingly?” Her answer is a resounding yes!
A similar theme is explored in the present song, appearing around the same time as Dodge’s, though for this one we do not know the author. Again it raises the question of what a child can offer to our God and King. The song asks what children can do for the Lord.
CH-1) The wise may bring their learning, the rich may bring their wealth,
And some may bring their greatness, and some bring strength and health;
We, too, would bring our treasures to offer to the King;
We have no wealth or learning; what shall we children bring?
Then, the author gives the answer. There are many things listed that could be discussed profitably with children.
CH-2) We’ll bring Him hearts that love Him; we’ll bring Him thankful praise,
And young souls meekly striving to walk in holy ways;
And these shall be the treasures we offer to the King,
And these are gifts that even the poorest child may bring.
CH-3) We’ll bring the little duties we have to do each day;
We’ll try our best to please Him, at home, at school, at play;
And better are these treasures to offer to our King;
Than richest gifts without them–yet these a child may bring.
1) Can you think of some ways and occasions this hymn could be used?
2) What are you doing to encourage faith in God, in the children you know, and to teach them God’s Word?