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Words: Albert Charles Norton (b. Nov. 20, 1886; d. ____, 1968)
Music: Donald Paul Hustad (b. Oct. 2, 1918; d. June 22, 2013)
Note: Thanks to a correspondent I’ve gained more knowledge of Mr. Norton. He lived most of his life in Philadelphia, and wrote many hymns, but as far as his granddaughter knows, this is the only one that was published. In 1953, Mr. Norton published a hymn asking an important question. The message of his song rings with truth.
What if? That can be an interesting question to ask. Things are what they are, but what if? Sometimes, a bit of imagination and speculation can bring helpful insights.
It’s an issue pursued in the 1946 film, It’s a Wonderful Life. What if George Bailey had never been born? In the popular fantasy, with the help of a somewhat befuddled angel named Clarence, George gets a chance to find out. We are all informed and inspired as we see the value of a single person, to his family and in his community.
In 1994, James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe tackled an even more far reaching issue in their book, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? The title is self-explanatory. What difference would it make if the Lord Jesus had not walked the earth two thousand years ago. The book is still available, and I recommend it. The authors explore the affect of Christ’s coming on governments, the arts, education, medicine, and more, but I’m going to take a slightly different approach here. Here are a few things to ponder.
About the Celebration
If Christ had not come, what would it mean for the festivities of Christmas? Simply put, there would be none. No angelic good news for the shepherds (Lk. 28-14), no visit of the wise men (Matt. 2:1-11). No glittering holiday lights, no “Merry Christmas!” echoing from one to another. Not even any secular revelries–not for that. No Christmas sales, and no general spirit of good will that so often accompanies the season.
About the Scriptures
How would the supposition that Christ did not come change the Word of God? Instead of the Holy Bible, we’d end up with a Bible full of holes! Much of the Old Testament would be missing, and there would be no New Testament at all. There’d be no wondrous message of God’s love fulfilled at Calvary (Jn. 3:16), only the continuing thunders of judgment from Mount Sinai (Exod. 19:10-12). God would remain unapproachable, since all are condemned sinners in His sight (Jn. 3:18).
About our Service
What about our Christian service, if Jesus had not come? There would be no pastors, no missionaries, no Sunday School teachers, no Sunday services–no churches at all. No Salvation Army, with their Christmas kettles and their wonderful ministry to the needy. No Christian radio and television programs, no Christian books or material available on the Internet.
About our Songs
There’d be no Christian music, and no uplifting Christmas carols. No Joy to the World, no Angels from the Realms of Glory. And Handel’s incomparable Messiah would never have been written. In fact, fully nine tenths (or more) of our hymns would be gone from our hymn books, as well, if Jesus had not come.
About our Salvation
There would be no eternal salvation available, if Jesus had not come. With no Saviour suffering for our sins, and no empty tomb, there would be none. That is the essence of the “gospel” (I Cor. 15:1-4). With no victory over sin and death, sinners would all be eternally lost. There would be no blessed hope, no resurrection to eternal blessing, and no heavenly home prepared for us.
But enough of this gloomy picture! The Lord Jesus Christ did indeed come, and what a difference He has made! Because of it we have enjoyed the celebrations of the Christmas season from twenty centuries. The Scriptures are complete, we praise Him with our songs, and a multitude of Christians commit their lives to life-changing service for the Lord. Beyond all else, there is eternal salvation through faith in Christ.
Here is a little of Mr. Norton’s hymn.
1) If Jesus had not come, how dark had been the night!
The wise men, sadly dumb, had seen no starry light;
The shepherds on the hill had heard no angel song;
The bells in silence chill, no joyous peal had rung.
But Jesus came! He came to earth,
And men beheld His manger birth.
The shepherds heard the angels sing,
The wise proclaimed Him Lord and King!
He died, He rose; and by His blood,
We too become the sons of God;
We preach the gospel in His name,
For Jesus came! Yes, Jesus came!
1) What things come to your mind that would be different “if Jesus had not come”?
2) What are some reasons He did come?