Thursday, March 24, 2011

From Sapphire Throne to Manger-Crib

Although I haven’t blogged much recently, I have been writing.  Much of this was assignments for school that no one except my teachers  would be interested.  However, I’ve also written a few hymns, including this one.  A while back, someone asked me to comment on where my inspiration for the images I use comes from.  I’ve added some commentary about writing it after the hymn.  If you’re interested, read the commentary.  If not, at least read the poem.  It’s short and (I hope) captures the important concepts.

From Sapphire Throne to Manger-Crib

From sapphire throne to manger-crib, You come.
Eternity steps into time’s embrace
To dwell beneath the shadow of the cross
To trade Earth’s misery for Heaven’s grace.

You walk the winding roads of Galilee,
Their mundane dust beneath Your holy feet.
When sacred hands caress our dying flesh,
All sin and sickness make their swift retreat.

You laugh with joy, partaking of our feasts.
You weep and feel the sting of human pain.
Each perfect step brings near Your destiny –
To give Your perfect life, our lives to gain.

The Lord of Life submits to bitter death!
The God of Glory laid within a grave!
What love, to suffer so that we can thrive,
To rise, released from death, our lives to save.

The angels sing with joy to greet their king,
And I as well delight in You alone.
From dark, cross-shadowed manger You have come,
Returning to Your rightful sapphire throne.

This newest hymn began around Christmas time, as the first stanza may indicate.  It was inspired by a podcast from Stand to Reason, in which Greg Koukl was discussing Christmas and the Incarnation.  He commented that even at Christmas, the baby in the manger was overshadowed by the cross, since that was the real reason why He was born.  The image of a cross-shadowed manger stuck in my head and, a few weeks later, was expressed in the first verse.

The second stanza aims at pointing out the difference between Christ and the world he came in.  Jesus was God and thus utterly different from everything around Him, especially the sinful aspects of it and the brokenness that resulted from sin (which includes sickness).  However, He was still willing to engage with this broken, messed-up world and experience all of our lives.  Verse three focuses specifically on Jesus’s willingness to experience the turbulent emotions that define our lives, another manifestation of His participation in the world.  It then returns to the idea that all of Jesus’ life anticipated the cross.

I have written multiple hymns about the crucifixion, and I cannot write enough.  Poetry thrives on paradox, and there is no paradox more astounding than the crucifixion.  The cross brings together immortality and death, love and hatred, death and life, joy and agony.  It is literally the crux of all of history.  (Note: my one linguistic pet peeve is misuse of the word “literal.”  I only use it when it actually applies.  In this case, the word “crux” is literal because it comes from the Latin word for “cross.”)  However, this tremendous sacrifice is inseparably connected to the Resurrection, which affirmed that God found Christ’s sacrifice acceptable and forgave sins because of it.

I try not to make my hymns too long, but there was not space in four stanzas to say everything I wanted to say.  I ended with a vision of Heaven in which angels rejoice in all that God has done.  I included the reference to my own delight in Christ alone because this is meant as a hymn, and use in worship demands a personal response.  This is also why I used the present tense throughout – I want the readers/singers to imagine themselves as present during the events described.  Although our hearts are not now fully committed to Christ, they someday will be, so the personal response is actually an anticipation of Heaven.  The last couplet recalls the beginning of the hymn, only reversing it.  The hymn began with Christ coming from glory into the world; now He returns to glory, as symbolized by the sapphire throne.

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