Having trouble placing those lyrics among your repertoire of Christmas hymns?
Before I give it away, let’s sing these words slower.
There’s a reason this verse isn’t normally sung anymore; its heavy words hardly sound celebratory.
“Sinners” doesn’t exactly depict “holiday cheer”.
No one wants to apply “sinner” to themselves, especially at Christmas!
But Scripture leaves no room for argument.
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
“Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7)
Have you ever used the Lord’s name for your glory, your convenience, as a cuss word, or by not living up to His standard even though you call yourself a Christian, claiming His Name? Guilty of breaking His law makes us a sinner.
“Do not have other gods besides Me.” (Exodus 20:3)
Have you ever loved anything more than God? A job, our home, a spouse, family, children, or hobby? Elevating even one thing one time, makes us guilty of breaking this law, earning us the sentence “Lawbreaker” and, you guessed it, sinner.
“Do not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16)
Has your tongue ever repeated gossip? Have your words ever slandered another? No one can honestly claim innocence here meaning, once more, we are sinners.
That’s only three of God’s commands,
and we’ve achieved 100% failure rate.
Truth is truth whether we like it or not.
The reality that we have epically failed to live up to God’s standard of righteousness (and His is the only one that matters) leaves us inarguably, as sinners.
“Doomed for guilt to endless pains”
God’s Word says the consequence of sin is death and eternal separation from God, which means being cut off from all hint of goodness and left to suffer under ceaseless wrath.
“…we were by nature children under wrath…” (Ephesians 2:3)
I cannot fathom a worse existence.
Our default destination after life on earth is eternal death without relief.
Souls exist in the afterlife eternally tormented under the rightly deserved wrath of God. How can it be rightly deserved?
How can a good God send good people to an eternity of suffering in Hell?
The answer is why the songwriter, James Montgomery, started his stanza with “sinners”. We rightly deserve this punishment because we brought it on ourselves
by our own choice to love sin and choose to act it out on the daily.
God doesn’t “send good people” to Hell because truly, no sinner can claim “goodness”, not according to God’s standard. Again, since He’s the Judge of all (Genesis 18:25), He gets to decide the standard, not us.
“There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10)
God doesn’t do the “sending, we do. A good judge simply doles out the just punishment a guilty person rightly deserves because of the choices they made.
Our sins make us guilty of death, keeping us under God’s eternal wrath, hence Montgomery’s line, “Doomed for guilt to endless pains.”
Are you feeling cheered by Christmas glee
and warmed by yuletide anticipation as we sing this carol slowly?
I don’t blame you for not having warm feelings.
Honestly, it’s pretty bad news at this point.
The worst news actually.
Sinners, you and I, condemned to eternal death by our own willful actions against the Perfectly Righteous Judge of the Whole World.
This is precisely why the angels broke through the curtain of night separating the heavenlies from humanity the night Christ was born.
Angels from the realms of glory
Wing your flight o’er all the earth.
What radical news was brought by such an angelic host of warrior singers?
God Himself snuggled in swaddling cloths
would be exchanged 33 years later for burial clothes.
An inn keeper’s manger
would be exchanged for a rich man’s tomb.
From wooden manger to wooden cross, it was the pleasure of the Father to crush the Son, that we might exchange our sin-stained garments for Christ’s own robe of righteousness!
(Isaiah 53:10, 2 Corinthians 5:21)
Christ, the Perfect Judge, had come Himself
to pay the penalty of death and separation we owed. (Isaiah 40:1-2)
He took our place.
He died our death.
He was separated from the Father.
“Justice now revokes your sentence!”
The worst news ever becomes the most unfathomable news possible!
Suddenly, no Christmas party, gift-buying, or perfect tree-trimming compares to this joyous hymn’s proclamation.
This is Christmas!
Montgomery closes his unsung stanza with three words that should warble in our hearts all year, “Mercy calls us”.
The gift of Christ in a manger,
of His death and resurrection,
and the good news that every single sin
has been paid for in full
by the righteous God Himself is astounding.
But it makes no difference
if we simply stare at its packaging tied up with a bow,
refusing to unwrap it and make it our own.
Christ’s payment for sin is a free gift. (Romans 6:23)
No need to perform or clean up your life in order to earn its deposit into your spiritually deficit account. But we must choose to trust Him by being “wrung with true repentance”.
If we do, Montgomery’s last three words will ring in our hearts for eternity,
“Break your chains”.
Come to Jesus, worship Him by laying down your sin and shame and be set free!
“If the Son sets you free, you really will be free.”
“Come and worship!
Come and worship!
Worship Christ the newborn king!”
(Angels From The Realms of Glory)
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