'Tis the Season
It’s that time of year again. The Christmas season is upon us and the big day is drawing near. At this point, you can’t go down a street without seeing homes lit up and inflatable reindeer on front lawns. Neighborhood streets are crowded with Amazon delivery trucks as far as the eye can see. But what does this season mean for us as the church? As we are in the season of Advent, it is important for us as believers to reflect on the miracle of the birth of Christ in context. We must ask ourselves a simple question…Why did Christ come?
One of my favorite worship songs has always been In Christ Alone. The lyrics are theologically rich and God-honoring. The hymn has understandably become a staple in many churches across the world. In 2013 though, there was some controversy surrounding the song. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA), seeing how popular the hymn was, desired to include it in their hymnal. There was one problem, they wanted to change the lyrics. The second verse included the line, “Til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” The PCUSA Hymnal Committee decided that they would only include the hymn if they would be able to change the lyrics to “Til on that cross as Jesus died, the love of God was magnified.” (Original lyrics below)
"In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live"
Thankfully the writers of the song, Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, denied the request and kept the original lyrics thus keeping the hymn out of the PCUSA Hymnal. It begs the question though…Why would PCUSA want the lyrics changed? The culture in which we live shutters at the thought of “wrath”. It’s an abrasive term that connotes pain and suffering. It doesn’t mingle well with the concept of a socially accepting, tolerant, and “loving” God who allows people to wantonly live out their base desires. Sadly, even churches, in hopes of being inclusive, have given into this way of thinking.
We must hold fast to the truth. It was God’s perfect holiness (1 Sam 2:2) and wrath (Rom 1:18), in harmony with His love (John 3:16) that deemed the incarnation of Christ necessary. Christ came, that to the glory of God, He would be our substitute. He and only He, could satisfy the wrath of a Holy God and impute to us His righteousness. This Advent season, we should know that the Word became flesh for a reason…and it wasn’t for bellies full of ham and hanging mistletoe. May we celebrate the birth of our Lord in the fullness of this rich understanding.