Posted by: rcottrill | April 18, 2016

If Jesus Had Not Come

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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)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Don Hustad)
Hymnary.org

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!

Questions:
1) What things come to your mind that would be different “if Jesus had not come”?

2) What are some reasons He did come?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Don Hustad)
Hymnary.org


Responses

  1. What a surprise to see this hymn. Albert Charles Norton was my grandfather. He was born November 20, 1886 and died in 1968 – I don’t know the exact date – and is buried in the West Laurel Hill Cemetery near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He lived most of his life in Philadelphia, at 5629 Thomas Avenue, and I remember as a child in the ’50s and ’60s, visiting my grandparents there many times. They had an old player piano in their living room – a source of endless fascination to us as children. In 2014 one of my brothers and I went back to see that house.

    My grandfather was involved in World War I and was nearly gassed to death. He survived, obviously, but suffered ill effects for the rest of his life. He played the violin and often voiced his desire that we, his grandchildren (he had 22, total) would learn to play that instrument, as well. I don’t think any of us did. But he found an old metal clarinet somewhere in his house and gave it to me, and I learned to play it – and then played (with better clarinets), all through school. I still play my clarinet occasionally.

    He wrote hundreds of hymns, but this is the only one ever published in a major hymnal – “Tabernacle Hymns #5.” This hymn may be the only one that was ever published at all – I don’t know.

    • It’s always a blessing to me when someone connected with a hymn writer is able to share extra knowledge about the person and what he or she produced. Thanks so much for your interesting note. God bless.

  2. In answer to your first question, What would it be like if Jesus Christ had not come? The old missionary biographies are vastly helpful here. For instance, how was it on the island of Tanna before the light of the gospel ever came to their land? First of all, they were cannibals that killed and ate the first missionaries that came to them. On the island there were several tribes that constantly fought one another over just about anything you could imagine. They had shamans (“holy” men) who supposedly had power to put curses on people. The people were animists who believed that rocks and stones had power and so they kept them for protection and help. Other rocks or certain areas of the island were believed to be indwelt by evil spirits and these they avoided like the plague. The women were stolen, beaten and treated worse than animals. Children’s lives too were cheap. If a child was not wanted it was killed. They wore very little clothing, and smeared their bodies with mud and paint. Revenge was rife, so that they were constantly at war with one another. The men had to carry their weapons with them at all times lest they be ambushed or killed outright. As a result of this and their fear of the evil spirits, their daily lives were filled with dread and terror. They ate those that they killed because they believed that it was a way of taking on their power. (see http://wholesomewords.org/missions/biopaton11.pdf)

    We in the West have very little conception of life without Jesus Christ and His life-giving gospel. We have lived with such amazing mercy and grace from God. Yet, every day we are seeing more and more what a Christ-less society looks like as we witness the darkness closing in, the confusion, hatred, immorality and lawlessness around us. We could very well see a new dark age if the Lord tarries.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful answer, and the dramatic illustration. And you’re right, we have little conception of a world without Christ. Even apart from the personal impact on our lives as Christians, our whole world is different. That’s why I referenced the book, and discussed some things to think about in the article. God bless.


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