Leonard Browning: God and sinners reconciled
One of the most familiar Christmas carols, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” contains the strain: “God and sinners reconciled.” We tend to sing this almost mindlessly, but recently, I have been stricken by the significance of the numerous inferences made in this short segment of the famous carol and the pause this should bring.
First, God. When Charles Wesley penned his poem, “Hymn for Christmas Day,” and asked that it be set to soft and solemn music, I don’t think he could have envisioned the joyful tune we sing today. Numerous revisions of Wesley’s original prose have come down over the years, each with different tunes set for the times and places in which they would be found. What never changed was the line in reference. In the revisions in 1739, 1754 and 1782, all the way to 1961, the concept of God, especially the God of the Bible, was never in question and was affirmed by most, at least in the Western World.
Hebrews 11:6 — And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Second, sinners. This word has become less than fashionable in our time and yet is significant if we are to understand the nature of man and his need for a Savior. The old English (think King James Bible) understanding of “sin” was an archer missing the mark of perfection — original targets only had a bullseye, not the concentric circles we are accustomed to on our targets. You either hit the bullseye or you “sinned” — missing the mark of perfection. While sin may be offensive, imperfection is a reality, and I know of no one who claims to be perfect, which is the heart of the issue.
Our mindset concerning our own waywardness has been co-opted by our target shooting experience. What I mean is, when one typically thinks of his or her personal shortcomings it is similar to thinking of the concentric circles on the target — I may not be in the bullseye (perfect), but I am not outside the outermost ring (murderer or adulterer).
God is perfect, and we are not; it’s why we need to be saved.
Romans 3:23 — … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory (“perfection”) of God …
Romans 6: 23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Third, reconciled. Whether in accounting practice, relationship dynamics or harmony in any way, the term “reconciled” is significant if we are to understand and accept our imperfection in contrast to God’s perfection.
Ephesians 2:13 — But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Our separation from God is actual, significant and has a solution; it’s Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. It’s what Christmas is all about.
“Hark the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!
“Peace on earth and mercy mild,
“God and sinners reconciled”
Leonard Browning is pastor at The Journey at First Baptist Church in Craig.