This song is written as “a Christmas carol for children,” from the venerable Martin Luther, dated 1535. It is based on the Bible’s account of Christ’s birth in Luke 2:1-18.
Good news from heaven the angels bring,
Glad tidings to the earth they sing:
To us this day a child is given,
To crown us with the joy of heaven.
To us that blessedness He brings,
Which from the Father’s bounty springs:
That in the heavenly realm we may
With Him enjoy eternal day.
All hail, Thou noble Guest, this morn,
Whose love did not the sinner scorn!
In my distress Thou cam’st to me:
What thanks shall I return to Thee?
Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
She yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for Thee.
Ah, dearest Jesus, Holy Child!
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.
Praise God upon His heavenly throne,
Who gave to us His only Son:
For this His hosts, on joyful wing,
A blest New Year of mercy sing.
In this beautiful little poem the exposition of God’s reign is brought to light. It is God’s work and Glory and all the verbs are ascribed to God. He sends, He gives, He blesses, He will be our Lord and Savior, He even makes the chamber, the heart, the house, His. The problem we run up against is the “problem of God”.. He is either all in all or He is not God. The Gospel is an exclusive statement. It is all Christ, or it is nothing. The Gospel makes people who hear it a clean, and in the words of the King James version “garnished”. But if it is not completely filled with Christ it will be filled by invitation with other stuff.
It was Luther who said the famous words that most of us have still not quite figured out. In talking about the theology of the Cross which is Lutheran against the Theology of Glory which is not he said, “A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.” Let us call a thing what it is. The heart is deceitful and corrupt above all things (Jeremiah). The will is bound. The will will always desire what is not Christ unless it dies and is transformed. The hearts has to be made new by Christ. But we will always see the demons come and religion becomes a morality play and the seek for a higher value of goodness – twelve steps to this and five steps to that. It becomes Jesus plus this or that so that Christ is not all and all. Or it becomes a formula and as Trevor Martin describes, “a behaviorism that is centered in the self and not in God. This shows itself in many different ways as the human ego cannot bear the burden of its own impurity and emptiness, so it ‘Goes off and collects seven other spirits more evil than itself’ and gathers demons like smugness, denial, certainty, false religion, self righteousness, pride, and delusion to cover its exposure”. The bound will of man is like the strong man in Matthew 12 which must itself be bound by Christ before it spoils can be attained and the house made a quiet chamber by Christ. We sing these things – “Take my will and make it thine, it shall be no longer mine take my heart it is thine own it shall be thy royal throne”. But do we mean it or do we decide that we will open our hearts and let Jesus be our Savior? That demon of decision brings the others in too. Self righteousness, pride, and delusion, puffed up religiosity, smugness, superiority, and at the end the monster of uncertainly before we reach the “lychgate”. There in the laughing face of the demons we let in, we face the final truth “that the last act is the greatest treason; to do the right thing for the wrong reason” (T.S.Eliot)
If Christ is all in all it is all Christ or it is nothing. That is why we talk about baptism as the daily drowning of the old man and the cleaning of the house by Christ and His creation of the New man who lives with Christ in righteousness and purity.