Faith, hope and mystery – Christmas: ‘Til the soul felt its worth
by Frank King
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
I’ll bet you don’t have to think long to match the melody with the lyrics of this well-loved Christmas carol. I’ll also bet that like me, you’ve missed some of the subtleties of the words.
Someone mentioned the verse above at work the other day and pondered the line “‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth”. Any idea what it means? I think I’ve figured it out. ‘He’ is Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the son of God. The inference in this lyric is that His arrival, and all that it meant, caused people to feel valued in a new way.
The lyric makes sense because according to the Bible, the birth of the Son of God was first announced not to the rich and famous of that time, but to smelly sheep herders. It was the first of many times when Jesus leveled the playing field between the haves and have-nots of this world.
Some faiths adhere to a “caste” system that ranks people’s value. Others faiths advocate violence against those who do not agree with their beliefs.
Meanwhile, the Bible describes how Jesus casually did the unthinkable for a Jew in ancient Israel: he had a conversation with a non-Jewish woman with a questionable reputation. In doing so, her soul felt a new worth.
Is that model being carried out today by followers of Jesus? Yes. Consider that a majority of prison ministries are Christian. Why? Because the criminals we’ve locked away as dangerous and useless are of huge value to God. In fact, they have the same value as you and me. Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”) is glorious proof.
The good news that we celebrate this month, made plain in John 3:16, is God sent Jesus for ALL people. And that’s the unique thing about Christianity. Because our souls have equal worth to God (regardless of who we are or what we’ve done or haven’t done), we all have a chance to accept God’s extraordinary Christmas gift and find new meaning in our lives. That’s why we can wish people Merry Christmas and understand its full, life-giving implications.
Frank King’s views are his own and do not reflect on his role as manager of media relations for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada and Samaritan’s Purse Canada.