Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor (Advent 1)

nativity_tree2011By Elizabeth Schmucker

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Sunday, November 27th, began the season in the Christian calendar known as Advent. Defined most basically, advent simply means “the coming or arrival of any person or thing considered significant”[1] and comes from the Latin word meaning “coming.” It is synonymous with “approach” and “arrival.”

Yet today the word “advent” almost exclusively refers to the period of time preceding the celebration of Christmas, which is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. Advent officially starts four Sundays before Christmas and continues until Christmas day. It is a time to prepare and remember Christmas’ true meaning: celebrating Christ’s birth. In fact, the word “advent” is better known in reference to the time before Christmas than in its general definition. The Merriam-Webster and Oxford English dictionaries define the word twice in reference to Christmas and the coming of the Christ before defining it in its general understanding. How can a word be redefined to refer almost exclusively to a singular instance of its general definition?

Perhaps through looking at the profundity of Christmas we can understand why it requires a special time of preparation and can better understand why this preparation period has redefined the word. The multifaceted nature of Christmas means that Christmas is best understood and celebrated when a period of advent is taken. Because Christmas needs a time of preparation and because millions prepare during the advent season, the word itself has come to refer chiefly to the period before Christmas. We would like to join in on this time of preparation by examining Christmas through the lens of different Christmas and Advent carols.

Please partake with us at Claritas in preparing yourself for Christmas during this Advent season. We will begin by examining a perhaps unfamiliar hymn by Frank Houghton, “Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor.” This hymn captures much of the awe that Christmas inspires and by meditating on its meaning, we can prepare .

  1. Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
    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 splendour,
    All for love’s sake becomest poor.
  1. Thou who art God beyond all praising,
    All for love’s sake becamest man;
    Stooping so low, but sinners raising
    Heavenwards by thine eternal plan.
    Thou who art God beyond all praising,
    All for love’s sake becamest man.
  1. Thou who art love beyond all telling,
    Saviour and King, we worship thee.
    Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
    Make us what thou wouldst have us be.
    Thou who art love beyond all telling,
    Saviour and King, we worship thee.[2]

The first two lines explain exactly why Christmas is so glorious. God, immeasurably rich, came to earth to become man because he loved us. Although we, as human sinners, deserve nothing but God’s wrath and punishment because we attributed God’s glory to ourselves, God found it good to become human in order to save us. Christ traded his glory to come to earth as a sacrifice for humans.[3]

No wonder we should respond with praise and thanksgiving. God is good for who he is; moreover, God is good for what he did in sending Christ to save us. Let us prepare ourselves for Christmas by thanking God for sending Christ. What a cause to say “Merry Christmas!”

This blog post begins a series which will use different hymns to partake in Advent and to help staff and readers alike prepare for Christmas.

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Want to know more about Elizabeth? Read her bio here.

[1]“advent, n.”. OED Online. September 2016. Oxford University Press. (accessed December 02, 2016).
[2] Frank Houghton (1894-1972). OMF International, 1934.
[3] Philippians 2:6-8 (ESV)
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