"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Neglected Verse

Many hymnals are missing verses to great hymns. One of those songs is the almost universally sung (in the English world) Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. For this Carol, three verses are typically listed. All three are poetically, theologically, and devotionally great. However, the fourth verse really nails down two huge themes of Scripture: the coming of the Seed of the Woman (promised in Genesis 3:15) and Jesus Christ as that Seed, the Second Adam.
Here are the words:

Come, Desire of Nations, come
Fix in us thy humble home.
Rise the Woman's conq'ring Seed
Bruise in us the serpent's head.
Adam's likeness now efface,
Stamp thine image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

The title, Desire of Nations, is taken from the infrequently read prophecy of Haggai, chapter two and verse seven. This verse speaks to the universal desire for a relationship with God, as well as God's desire that he have a relationship with people from all over the world. In order to do this the Seed of the Woman, Jesus, the one who would atone for Adam's sin had to be born. By his birth he begins his mission to crush the head of the serpent. Revelation 12:4 indicates that Satan, the dragon, was there at the beginning, at the Nativity, to make an attempt to thwart Christ, but was unsuccessful. This is a complete inversion from the "births" of Adam and Eve in the opening chapters of Genesis where it appears that they nearly immediately caved to Satan. Thus, the Second Adam comes and not only avoids the temptations of the devil but is able to "efface" the old man in each of us and restore his own image.
Thus, the verse ends with the prayer that Jesus reinstate us in his love. It is important to realize several points. First, the sin of the first Adam, with which we are born, is separation from God. Secondly, that only Christ could take the initiative to grant us access to God. Jesus by his grace and mercy can and will reinstate all people who desire it.
May it be the prayer of each of us this Christmas that the Christ child, who loved us so much that he came in humility as a baby, would reinstate us sinners in his divine love.

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