Words As Icons
No More Let Sin and Sorrows Grow
December 27, 2018 By Mark D. Roberts
He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
The third stanza of Isaac Watts’s beloved hymn, “Joy to the World,” reads, “No more let sin and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found.” This verse, unlike the other three, is the least like what we find in Psalm 98, the psalm that provided the theological basis for “Joy to the World.” Given that this hymn was Watts’s singable, Christian version of Psalm 98, we may wonder where he got verse 3.
The answer points, first of all, to Genesis 3. There we find sin and sorrows, thorns infesting the ground, and the curse of both ground and the serpent. The man and woman would live in a world broken by the curse of sin. Because of sin and its curse, their work, whether giving birth or farming, would be painful and difficult. Clearly, Watts had Genesis 3 in mind while writing the third verse of his hymn.
But where does Watts get the idea that the Lord’s blessings would flow in such a way that sorrows would shrink and thorns disappear? Again, we need to look back to Genesis, this time to Genesis 1. There, after God created humanity as male and female, we read, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’” God blessed the first humans, in part, by giving them work to do. Sin made their work painful and frustrating. But God does not leave humanity in this sad state, saddled by the curse. Rather, Christ brings the fullness of God’s salvation, forgiving human sin and restoring broken creation. Thus, the salvation of Christ leads to a new flow of God’s blessing “far as the curse is found.” The ground will no longer be cursed, making human work fall short of the blessing God intended it to be. The blessings of Christ’s salvation will indeed flow so as to restore the original blessing of human work.
Though we continue to live in a world tainted by sin, a world of sorrows and thorns, in Christ we begin to experience the life of the future. Yes, our work will still be painful and frustrating. But, through Christ’s grace, we will at times sense that our work is a blessing, a chance for us to partner with God in the good work of tending his creation. Thus, we will join creation in celebrating the coming of our redeeming, restoring Savior.
Something to Think About:
In what ways do you experience the “thorns” that plague human work because of sin?
Are there times when you experience work as a blessing?
In what ways have the blessings of Christ flowed into your life?
Something to Do: Find a copy of “Joy to the World,” all four stanzas. Then, compare this Christmas hymn to the words of Psalm 98. See what you discover through this comparative exercise.
Prayer: Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room;
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing.
And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing.
Joy to the world, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ.
While fields and floods,
Rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sin and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found. Amen.
“An annual repeat but one of my favorites as there is a whole lot of my own blood, sweat and tears in this tale.
Again, although written almost a decade ago the words speak to what we still do this day.
One could call that pathetic but I prefer to call it tenacity as we have morphed and are working in ways and with tools we did not have ten years ago.
In fact, as we continue to fight for the wild ones, neither the enemy nor advocates are aware that we are pumping information to news outlets from behind the scenes. Yup, quietly and covertly Wild Horse Freedom Federation is filing FOIAs, writing columns, conducting covert investigations and selectively releasing information to those who will spread the word. We have matured.
So if you don’t…
View original post 3,634 more words
The soldiers were scattered across Europe with the loneliness of war. The world was caught up in a total struggle. Women had gone to the factories; children were collecting scrap metal. The “war effort” was universal. In many places, food was rationed. The madhouse of consumption belonged only to the war; everything else could wait. And there was Christmas. Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley were part of the effort as well, cranking out songs that have never gone away. The mood was one of deep sentimentality and hope. “I’ll be home for Christmas,” the radios played, and soldiers wept.
Being born in the early 50’s, I grew up in the cultural aftermath of the Second World War. The adults had not recovered from the experience and continued to remember it actively, even passionately. When rationing ended in Britain in 1954, there were those who felt that something important had been lost. At one point, the Labour Party had argued for indefinite rationing. The commonality of shared suffering, it seemed, was a stronger bond than the commonality of shared prosperity. Interesting that.
No one was nostalgic for the war itself. The fighting, bombing and the certainty of death and injury were gladly left behind. But the common bond of a common effort remained a lively part of a generation’s memory. The stories only ended when they were laid to rest. The nostalgia, I think, was for the commonality, an experience that banished loneliness and gave meaning to even the smallest actions. The prosperity that followed was hollow. For what purpose do we now shop?
Commonality is a fundamental part of life in a healthy world. It is akin to love itself and an extension of self-sacrifice. It is a world in which we receive far more than we give. It is also something that lies at the heart of the classical Christian account of salvation. We are saved within an act of inexhaustible and all-encompassing commonality in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Unless those events are seen through the lens of commonality, they cannot be understood.
St. Paul describes Christ as the “Second Adam.” He does not mean by this that Christ is merely a “do-over,” a second start for humanity. Rather, as an Adam, He is a summary and “re-capitulation” of the whole of humanity. The name “Adam,” in Hebrew, also means “man.” It is the term for our collective humanity as well as the man, Adam. As Second Adam, Christ is the new Man, but also a collective new Man. It is this that is referenced by St. Paul when he says that we should put off the old man and put on the new (Col. 3:9-10).
The Virgin is more than the one who carries the Christ Child in her womb; she is also the source of His humanity. He “took flesh” of the Virgin Mary (σαρκωθέντα ἐκ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς παρθένου), the Creed tells us. That “flesh” should not be seen as an isolated reference to biological meat. It is everything that constitutes our humanity: “and was made man” (ἐνανθρωπήσαντα). The reality of our humanity, whether of the First Adam or the Second, is collective.
In the Orthodox tradition, the two Sundays before Christmas are set aside to commemorate the Holy Forefathers, and the Holy Ancestors. It is a recognition that in the flesh of Mary is the flesh of many generations, indeed, the gathering of all flesh. It is a recognition that in the faith of Mary is the faith of the generations that have gone before as well. Christ has come for us, in us, that with us in Him, He might live, die and live again and we as well. This is the true fullness of Christmas.
In this true story of Christmas, everyone comes home. We are all there. We are united together in Christ in the common struggle that is our salvation. This war in which we live is the only true World War, and perhaps greater than that. Its outcome has long ago been determined in Christ but it remains something to be lived and fulfilled in us.
We’ll be home for Christmas. Christ is born. Glorify Him.
Today: the Feast of St. Nicholas, the ancient precursor to the modern Santa Claus, will pass without much ado. Some will try to encourage us to resurrect St. Nicholas to save us all from Santa’s powers for we have gone astray. To those well meaning souls who would rid Christmas of its flagrant consumerism, I can only offer up a feeble, “Baa Humbug!”
The very best traditions about St. Nicholas suggest that he was a protector of children while the worst tradition has him providing dowries so that young girls could be married off by their father rather than be sold into slavery. Meanwhile, the modern character Santa Claus grooms children to take up their role as consumers in the cult materialism. Some parents may bemoan the little gimmie-monsters that their children become, but most adults are rendered helpless by our own remembered indoctrinations and so we join in what we choose…
View original post 846 more words
The One Church Plan takes the method out of United Methodism. That method has been connectionalism and it has been grossly redefined by the OCP and the Judicial Council: “As a primary principle in any organizational structure of The United Methodist Church, connectionalism denotes a vital web of interactive relationships—multi-leveled, global in scope, and local […]