Walking towards the Light from the cross of a King

A blog by Josh Humbert

The Test Of Christmas Greatness

To this day…..


…..I can still give you the process for multiplying fractions in the blink of an eye. This is not because I’m Good Will Hunting – in fact, math was a struggle for me. My ability to remember and recall this process is because of my music teacher in 4th grade at Crosby Elementary School. 

Mrs. Outley would break it down like this: “Multiplyin’ fractions, ain’t no problem. It’s the top times the top and the bottom times the bottom.”

Mrs. Outley had #Barz. She would give us these raps and rhymes that would instantly stick in my mind. Years later, her teaching holds up.

This has everything to do with Christmas and Christmas music.

Lewis And The Littleness

C.S. Lewis didn’t have fraction-based lyrics but he wrote down some quality thoughts. One of them goes like this, “Everywhere the great enters the little – it’s power to do so is almost the test of it’s greatness.

There’s solid truth in what he said. It is (basically) the test of something’s greatness in how it is able to enter something lesser or little. Instinctively, you KNOW this is true.

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—What do excellent parents of little children do? They ENTER their child’s world of play – they go down into their children’s “littleness.” A mother who gets involved in her son’s nerf-gun battles is PASSING that test of greatness by entering their little/smaller world. A father who pretends to sip the invisible liquid in the pink cup his daughter offers him during her tea party is PASSING the test of greatness by entering her little world (and by fitting himself on those little chairs!). The great entering the little with excellence means true greatness is achieved.

Lewis described what we know to be true. That’s why Mrs. Outley was a great teacher – she entered our 4th grade worlds with EFFECTIVENESS and creativity. Get this: she passed the test of greatness NOT by going UP to receive some award from her peers or principal but by going down to our level. Her greatness was shown in how she entered our little with excellence.

This has everything to do with Christmas and Christmas music.

Citizens, Saints, And Songs

Citizens And Saints put out a Christmas album in 2013 and it is phenomenal. One track in particular that I will focus in on is a restyling of an ancient hymn and it’s called “Come And Stand Amazed.” With no exaggeration, I would say that the lyrics are easily some of the strongest and truest of any Christmas song. This song DESERVES to be heard and sang and contemplated.

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The lyrics continually push you to examine the tension and shock of the Incarnation. The driving theme that undergirds the three verses is the greatness of God coming down…all the way down…in the birth, life, and death of Christ. It is the CS Lewis quote as a song of praise.

The first verse:

Come and stand amazed you people

See how God has reconciled

See His plans of love accomplished

See His Gift, this newborn Child

See the Mighty, weak and tender

See the Word, who now is mute

See the Sovereign, without splendor

See the Fullness, destitute

Note the polarity that is somehow bridged. Note the distance covered from greatness to smallness. “the Mighty, weak and tender…the Sovereign, without splendor…the Fullness, destitute.” That is incredible writing. Better still, it is true.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the GREATEST…….has entered our smallness.

This IS Christmas and Christmas music.

A Christmas Reversal

Here’s the other side of that idea from Lewis: it is a truth that cannot be reversed. It simply doesn’t work. The mom can join the boy’s nerf-gun fight, but the little boys cannot pay the bills. The dad can join the tea party but the young daughter can’t close the big sale at his workplace. The little CANNOT enter the great. It is hopeless. Impossible. 

Now the first line rings out even more: “Come and stand amazed you people!”

We the sinners, we the failures, we the ones with no hope, we the little….we have something that truly amazes. On our own, we the little will NEVER get the greatness of God. And so, the God of the entire universe has come down to us. The exceedingly GREAT came down to our incredibly small.

The third verse:

Oh Lord Jesus, God Incarnate

Who assumed this humble form

Counsel me and let my wishes

To Your perfect will conform

Light of life dispel my darkness

Let Your frailty strengthen me

Let Your meekness give me boldness

Let Your burden set me free

Oh Immanuel, my Savior

Let Your death be life for me!

Do you know what Christmas means? It means that Jesus loves you so much that He came down to earth to take upon Himself ALL your smallness, all your littleness, all your sin. Jesus says, “I will become cosmically little so that you can enter the greatness of the never-ending love of the Father.”

The God who knit my body together in my mother’s womb is the One who embraced the frailty of death on a Cross. The King who has everything is the One who willingly became poor on my behalf. The Savior who lived perfectly righteous is the One who faced the wrath of God for me.

Oh Immanuel, my Savior – let Your death be life for me!

The Test Of Christmas Greatness

Mrs. Outley passed the test of greatness. The parents who love their children well get that passing mark too. And when the sacrificial love of Jesus moves you to embrace the little and smallness of this world on behalf of others then you are great as well. 

Come and stand amazed at the stunning news of Christmas: greatness isn’t achieved and displayed by going up, higher above…it is fully realized when the great enters the little; when the greatest go lowest.

I hope you enjoy the song and that it encourages you during this Christmas season. I hope the wonder of God’s love hits your heart in a fresh way this December and may it spill over into the lives of others. 

Merry Christmas.

Want to read last year’s Christmas (music) devotional? Click here

Thanks for reading.  Your comments and insights are always welcomed.  If you enjoyed this, please share it.  Want more content?  Check the archives or listen to me on the Cross-Cutting Culture Podcast on iTunes.

One comment on “The Test Of Christmas Greatness

  1. Pingback: The (actual) War On Christmas | Walking towards the Light from the cross of a King

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This entry was posted on December 8, 2018 by in Blogroll, Christmas Music and tagged , , , , , , .

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