Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
A Song to the Lord

The Christmas Spirit - "Thou Who Wast Rich"

Do you remember the generosity of Jesus Christ, the Lord of us all? He was rich beyond our telling, yet he became poor for your sakes so that his poverty might make you rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9 Phillips)

J.I. Packer’s 1973 book Knowing God has been formative for many, many people in their understanding of what the Bible teaches about God. In chapter five of the book, “God Incarnate,” Packer gives a thorough study of the meaning and implications of our Lord Jesus Christ – God the Son – becoming a human being. Packer’s thoughts, along with the stanzas of the Gospel hymn “Thou Who Wast Rich” by Frank Houghton, give us much to meditate on as we ponder the miracle and wonder of God’s grace in Jesus that we celebrate at Christmastime, and the impact it should have on us all year long.

Packer writes, “The key text in the New Testament for interpreting the incarnation is . . . 2 Corinthians 8:9: ‘Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich.’ Here is stated, not the fact of the incarnation only, but also its meaning; the taking of manhood by the Son is set before us in a way which shows us how we should set it before ourselves and ever view it – not simply as a marvel of nature, but rather as a wonder of grace.”[1]

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor, all for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender, sapphire paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor, all for love’s sake becamest poor.

Packer continues, “How are we to think of the incarnation? The New Testament does not encourage us to puzzle our heads over the physical and psychological problems that it raises, but to worship God for the love that was shown in it. For it was a great act of condescension and self-humbling. ‘He, Who had always been God by nature,’ writes Paul, ‘did not cling to His prerogatives as God’s equal but stripped Himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as a mortal man. And, having become man, He humbled Himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal’ (Philippians 2:6 ff., Phillips). And all this was for our salvation.[2]

Thou who art God beyond all praising, all for love’s sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising, heaven-ward by Thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising, all for love’s sake becamest man.

Packer concludes, “We talk glibly of the ‘Christmas spirit,’ rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity . . . But . . . the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of Him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round . . . The Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor – spending and being spent – to enrich their fellow men; giving time, trouble, care, and concern, to do good to others – and not just their own friends – in whatever way there seems need.[3]

Thou who art love beyond all telling, Savior and King, we worship Thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling, make us what Thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling, Savior and King, we worship Thee.

Follow this link to enjoy Steve Green’s lovely and worshipful rendition of this hymn.

 

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Rusty Rabon

Rusty Rabon has served in vocational Christian ministry in local churches since 1981. He also served as a Christian radio announcer for 15 years. He married his wife Terri in 1978 and they have 3 grown children and 6 grandchildren. You can find books by Rusty Rabon here.

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