From the squalor of a borrowed stable
Carols during the Christmas season are a bit like Christmas pudding: they’re dense, rich, and arrive on our plate after we’re full to bursting with everything else, so we often don’t appreciate them as well as we might like!
On Sunday morning—and remember, with the two Carol services at 4pm and 7pm, we only have one morning service at 11:15am—we’re going to be singing some great Christmas songs, including ‘From the squalor of a borrowed stable.’ From the squalor sweeps across the canvas of human history with the broad brushstrokes of biblical hope. Let’s take some time this week to reflect on the words afresh.
Christmas is a great time to remember the otherwise-unimaginable chasm that Jesus spanned when He became a baby boy: from the throne room of heaven to the squalor of a borrowed stable. And to many who looked on, it was a scandalous birth—because His human parents had yet to be married. But the Bible gives us the wide-angle lens we need to see the reality—and the significance—of what happened in that cowshed in Bethlehem. A miraculous conception explained Jesus’ birth, and with Him dawned the praise of heaven as the long-promised rescue plan for humankind had arrived.
Verse 2 reminds us that Jesus knows exactly what we face and struggle with today. He “walked my road, and He felt my pain, Joys and sorrows that I know so well.” As the writer to the Hebrews explains, Jesus is able to empathise with our weaknesses because He has been tempted like us in every way—yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).
The hope of Christmas is fulfilled in the brutal reality of Easter. Verse 3 beautifully describes what Immanuel—’God with us’—came to achieve: namely, loosing us from the claims of hell, setting our souls free, and defeating death itself! And as verse 4 explains, Jesus’ story doesn’t end with even the Easter event. The great hope of the Bible is that Jesus is alive today, reigning in heaven with His Heavenly Father, from where He will one day return in power and glory. On that great day, the Church—pictured as a bride on her wedding day—”will run, to her Lover’s arms, Giving glory to Immanuel!”
As Simon reminded us at Carols in the Park last Sunday, the message of hope of Christmas time is truly an event in the past that determines the future and shapes our today.
From the squalor of a borrowed stable,
By the spirit and a virgin’s faith;
To the anguish and the shame of scandal
Came the Saviour of the human race!
But the skies were filled, with the praise of heav’n,
Shepherds listen as the angels tell
Of the Gift of God, come down to man
At the dawning of Immanuel
King of heaven now the Friend of sinners,
Humble servant in the Father’s hands,
Filled with power and the Holy Spirit,
Filled with mercy for the broken man
Yes he walked my road, and He felt my pain,
Joys and sorrows that I know so well;
Yet His righteous steps, give me hope again -
I will follow my Immanuel!
Through the kisses of a friend’s betrayal,
He was lifted on a cruel cross;
He was punished for a world’s transgressions,
He was suffering to save the lost
He fights for breath, He fights for me
Loosing sinners from the claims of hell;
And with a shout, our souls are free -
Death defeated by Immanuel!
Now He’s standing in the place of honour,
Crowned with glory on the highest throne,
Interceding for His own beloved
Till His Father calls us to bring them home!
Then the skies will part, as the trumpet sounds
Hope of heaven or the fear of hell;
But the Bride will run, to her Lover’s arms,
Giving glory to Immanuel!
Stuart Townsend, Copyright © 1999 Thankyou Music