Posted by: rcottrill | September 17, 2018

As with Gladness Men of Old

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

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: William Dix managed an insurance company in England. But he also made a contribution to our Christmas traditions in several ways. Mr. Dix wrote a number of hymns, including two popular Christmas carols, What Child Is This? and As with Gladness Men of Old. There is a lovely fifth stanza of the latter song which (sadly) most hymnals omit. Some only use the first three. Here are the last two, with their logically connected message.

CH-4) Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

CH-5) 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!

We have many traditions when it comes to Christmas. The decorations, the turkey dinners, the cards, the gifts, the songs and stories, all have been enjoyed for many years. But sometimes the word tradition is used in a kind of mocking way. “Well, that’s the traditional way of doing it,” someone may say. And you can tell they mean, “That’s the old-fashioned, out-dated way, but we know better now. But traditional does not mean old-fashioned.

The word is found in the Bible (II Thess. 2:15; 3:6, 14). The Greek word for it (paradosis), simply means to hand over, to give into the hands of another. Tradition is just a handed-on teaching or practice. (Paul used the word of his own God-inspired teaching.) It refers to something that is passed on from one person to another, or one generation to another.

And that can be a good thing to do. Whether in a family, a church, or a nation, tradition gives continuity and stability, in place of confusion and uncertainty. People know what is expected of them. Tradition helps to create a smooth flow from one generation to the next. And, properly handled, it can help the younger generation avoid the mistakes of their elders (cf. Ps. 78:1-8).

Traditions can also give us a sense of belonging to something that is both special and enduring. The fact that we are doing something today that past generations have done gives us a bond with them. We feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. That’s part of what makes family reunions so exciting. There’s a shared history to enjoy and pass on to the next generation.

But there are dangers to avoid. Any time we talk about tradition in biblical terms, the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees comes to mind. But Jesus did not condemn all tradition, when He talked with the Pharisees. Instead, he accused them of using tradition to evade their responsibility to God (Matt. 15:3, 5-6). When that happens, tradition has become too “bossy.” Overruling what God has said can never be right.

Tradition is being abused when it’s used:

¤ To displace reality (Acts 19:13, 15)
¤ To deplore any change (Acts. 10:13-15)
¤ To devalue the past (Acts 17:21)
¤ To deny the truth (Acts 14:11-15)

If we avoid those four extremes or dangers, we can continue to make use of tradition.

Jeremiah told the people of his day, “Ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16). The wise person appreciates the heritage of the past and will continue to employ it and be enriched by it.

As with Gladness Men of Old is based on the visit or the wise men to the baby Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). By memorializing that event in a song, the author retold the story, added to our sacred songs of the season, and highlighted gift-giving, a tradition he encouraged with these words:

CH-3) 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.

The word “gift” is used in the Bible over a hundred times. God Himself is the greatest Gift-giver (Jas. 1:17). He sent His Son to be our Saviour, and offers us eternal salvation through faith in Christ (II Cor. 9:15; Eph. 2:8). He has also given us various abilities to use for His glory (I Cor. 12:11; I Pet. 4:10).

We give back to the Lord when we honour and serve Him. The wise men have shown us a tradition worth emulating. And this Christmas, let us “Give to the Lord the glory due His name” (Ps. 96:8).

1) Could you make a list of some of the gifts (perhaps ten) God has given you?

2) What spiritual blessing can you pass on to someone else this week?

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


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