John and Charles Wesley are commonly considered the primary founders and promoters of Methodism in the eighteenth century Church of England. Both brothers were not only powerful evangelists but also skilled hymnwriters. Together they produced several hymnbooks.

Charles was especially gifted as a poet and hymnist, composing nearly 9,000 poems and over 6,000 hymns. His hymns are characterized by not only poetic beauty but also theological brawn. They are packed with biblical allusions and doctrinal truths. Charles’ best-known Christmas hymns are “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

Charles was happy to share his songs freely with the public. But he did not appreciate people amending them. In one of his hymnals he wrote:

“I beg leave to mention a thought which has been long upon my mind, and which I should long ago have inserted in the public papers, had I not been unwilling to stir up a nest of hornets. Many gentlemen have done my brother and me (though without naming us) the honor to reprint many of our hymns. Now they are perfectly welcome to do so, provided they print them just as they are. But I desire they would not attempt to mend them, for they are really not able. None of them is able to mend either the sense or the verse. Therefore, I must beg of them these two favors: either let them stand just as they are, to take things for better or worse, or to add the true reading in the margin, or at the bottom of the page, that we may no longer be accountable either for the nonsense or for the doggerel of other men.”

But Charles’ friend, the eminent evangelist George Whitefield, appears to have done the Christian Church a favor by ignoring Charles’ request and polishing up one of his hymns. At age thirty-two Charles wrote a Christmas hymn that began:

Hark, how all the welkin rings,

“Glory to the King of kings;

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,

Join the triumph of the skies;

Universal nature say,

“Christ the Lord is born today!”

The word “welkin” was an old English term for “the vault of heaven.” When Whitefield published this song in his 1753 hymnal, he changed the words to the now-beloved “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

For those who are interested in tracing out the numerous Scriptural references and truths included in “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”: Verse 1 is based on Luke 2:8-14; Verse 2 reflects Matthew 1:19-23 and John 1:1, 14, 18; Verse 3 refers to Isaiah 9:6, Malachi 4:2 and John 1:4, 9, 12-13. I’d encourage you to take some time this Christmas season to read through the verses of this hymn and reflect on the related Scriptures.

May all of us come to know and appreciate much more fully both who Christ Jesus is and the many spiritual blessings He has brought to us. As a result, may our hearts overflow with exalted worship of Christ, as Charles Wesley’s heart did when he wrote this classic Christmas hymn.

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Some of the information for this Perspective was gleaned from Robert Morgan’s uplifting book Then Sings My Soul, 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories (Thomas Nelson, 2003). An outstanding biography on Charles Wesley is Arnold Dallimore’s A Heart Set Free, The Life of Charles Wesley (Crossway Books, 1988).

If you have enjoyed and benefited from this blog post, I would sincerely appreciate your sharing it with your friends and acquaintances who could likewise profit from it.

Copyright 2020 by Vance E. Christie

The biblical Christmas narratives in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 show that the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ was revealed to various types of people – a young carpenter and his fiancé, an aging priest and his wife, common shepherds, wealthy and learned foreign magi, as well as two faithful senior saints eagerly awaiting the coming of Messiah.

The Angel and the ShepherdsWhen an angel of the Lord announced the birth of the Savior to the shepherds he proclaimed: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” This is good news of great joy for all the people because Jesus came to be the Savior of all types and classes of people. All who believe and receive Him as their Savior and Lord, regardless of their age or social status, are rescued from the penalty and power of sin and receive God’s gifts of forgiveness and eternal life.

A Ragpicker

A Ragpicker

This truth is beautifully illustrated through a remarkable event in the ministry of G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945). Morgan, who has been called “the prince of Bible expositors,” twice pastored the prestigious Westminster Chapel in London. He once was conducting a series of evangelistic meetings in one of the Midlands towns of England when a poor ragpicker came into the inquiry room after the preaching service. According to Morgan the man had “grown hoary in the service of sin and Satan.” Morgan knelt by the ragpicker and used the Word of God to lead him to the Savior.

Presently someone touched Morgan’s shoulder and asked him to speak with another man who had come into the place of prayer seeking spiritual guidance. This second individual turned out to be the mayor of the town, and Morgan similarly pointed him to Jesus as his Savior.

G. Campbell Morgan as an older man

G. Campbell Morgan as an older man

After the mayor finished praying, he stood and went over to the ragpicker. Just a few weeks before the mayor had sentenced the ragpicker to a month of hard labor for one of his repeated infractions of the law. Now the mayor stated, “Well, the last time we met, it was not here.”

“No,” the ragpicker responded, “and we never shall meet where we met last time, thank God!”

Morgan’s comment on this unusual circumstance was that the same Gospel message was sufficient for both men.

This Christmas season may those of us who know Jesus as our Savior overflow with fresh praise and thanksgiving to Him for having come to earth to provide our salvation. If you have not yet done so, may God graciously draw you to place your faith in His Son as your Savior. If I may be of any assistance to you in that matter, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

A blessed and Christ-honoring Christmas to all!

Copyright 2017 by Vance E. Christie

Don Richardson teaching the Sawi

Don Richardson teaching the Sawi

In 1962 Don and Carol Richardson, Canadian missionaries with Regions Beyond Missionary Union, began serving among the cannibalistic Sawi tribes of western New Guinea (modern Irian Jaya). The Sawi honored treachery as an ideal. They befriended people of other villages with the intent of later betraying, killing and even eating them. The first time Don Richardson shared the story of Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus, the Sawi admiringly proclaimed Judas the hero of the story!

The Richardsons ministered to a pair of neighboring villages, Haenam and Kamur, that were constantly warring against each other. When, after several months, the Richardsons were not able to convince the two settlements to stop fighting, they announced that they would have to move elsewhere to minister. The Sawi, not wanting to lose the benefits to be gained by having westerners living among them, suddenly declared that they were going to make peace with each other. The Richardsons wondered how such peace could possibly be established, given the long history of hatred, treachery and distrust that existed between the villages.

Giving of a peace child

Giving of a peace child

The morning after announcing their intention to make peace, first a leader from Haenam then a leader from Kamur started to carry one of their own infant sons toward the neighboring enemy village. But in the first case the father from Haenam was prevented from doing so by family members who snatched the child back from him. And in the second instance the Kamur father, obviously distraught, changed his mind and turned back to his own village.

Suddenly a young Kamur father named Kaiyo picked up his six-month-old son, his only child, and began running swiftly toward Haenam. Kaiyo’s wife chased after him, pleading with him to stop. But when she slipped and fell into a muddy bog alongside the trail, she was unable to stop him.

When Kaiyo arrived at Haenam he came face to face with a line of his mortal enemies. “Mahor!” he called out to one of them. When Mahor stepped forward, Kaiyo asked, “Mahor! Will you plead the words of Kamur among your people?” When Mahor stated he would, Kaiyo continued, “Then I give you my son and with him my name!”

Peace Child by Don RichardsonTaking the baby gently in his arms, Mahor then announced for all to hear: “It is enough! I will surely plead for peace between us! Those who accept this child as a basis for peace, come and lay hands on him!” The men, women and children of Haenam eagerly filed by, each placing his or her hands on the Kamur infant. From then on Mahor went by Kaiyo’s name.

Presently an infant from Haenam was presented to Kaiyo, who made the same sort of pledge that Mahor had pronounced moments earlier. When Kaiyo returned to his village, the people of Kamur similarly placed their hands on the Haenam child as the basis for maintaining peace with that settlement. Kaiyo immediately assumed the name of Mahaen, the Haenam father who had given him his son.

Don Richardson feared that harm might come to the infants who had been given to the enemy villagers. But he was assured that those children would be carefully protected so peace could continue between the two settlements. When Richardson asked why all this was necessary, the Sawi answered, “You’ve been urging us to make peace. Don’t you know it’s impossible to have peace without a peace child?”

Richardson went on to use that deeply-rooted cultural tradition as a “redemptive analogy” of God’s having sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile His enemies (those who were opposed to Him and rebelling against Him) to Himself, thus establishing peace between forgiven people and holy God. That peace child analogy, in fact, served as the basis of the breakthrough in the Sawis’ understanding that led many of them to saving faith in Christ.

Don and Carol Richardson with son Steve

Don and Carol Richardson with son Steve

When the angels announced the birth of the Savior to the shepherds in Luke 2, they declared, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” God was providing a Savior to make a way for human beings to come to be at peace with Him, to be reconciled to Him. By trusting in the Savior people could have their sins, which estranged them from God, forgiven. Christ Jesus was the ultimate Peace Child.

Romans 5:1, 10-11 also speaks of the peace and reconciliation God has brought to all who trust in Christ: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ … For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” See similarly 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 and Colossians 1:20-22.

God the Father and Christ the Son made a totally one-sided sacrifice to reconcile us; we sacrificed nothing. Christ bore on the cross the full judgment that we deserved for our rebellion against God. As a result, through Him we gain forgiveness and the countless other blessings that come through being in restored relationship with God. We rightly join the heavenly angels in giving highest praise to God for reconciling us to Himself in Christ.

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The full remarkable story of Don and Carol Richardson’s ministry among the Sawi is recorded in his excellent book Peace Child.

Luke 2:14

Shoemaker and apprentice pix 1William Carey (1761-1834) is commonly credited with being “the father of modern missions.” He grew up in Paulerspury, Northamptonshire County, England. Carey was a spiritually indifferent boy, despite the fact that his devout parents taught him to read the Bible from a very early age and religiously took him to the village’s Anglican Church. As a young teenager Carey was apprenticed to a shoemaker named Clarke Nichols in the neighboring village of Piddington. There Carey gravitated toward irreligious companions and became addicted to “lying, swearing and other sins.”

However, a fellow apprentice, John Warr, regularly talked with Carey about religious and spiritual matters. Warr attended the worship services of a nearby group of Dissenters, who were also known as Nonconformists. Like most Englanders in that day, Carey despised Dissenters for not adhering to the Church of England. Though Carey arrogantly argued against Warr’s views on Christianity, the latter’s earnest verbal witness and consistent Christian lifestyle began to have a positive influence. Carey started attending church more frequently in hopes of finding relief from the growing burden he had come to have on his soul. He also determined to set aside his habitual sins and sometimes sought to pray when alone.

Paulerspury Anglican Church as where Carey attended as a boy.

Paulerspury Anglican Church as where Carey attended as a boy.

God used an incident that occurred just at that time to show Carey the badness of his own heart and his need for a complete spiritual transformation. It was customary in that part of the country for apprentices to collect “Christmas boxes”—small cash gifts, sometimes collected in earthenware boxes—from the tradesmen with whom their masters had dealings. (These gifts were considered a token of Christmastime goodwill toward the apprentices for their service of the tradesmen throughout the year.) That Christmas season Clarke Nichols sent Carey to Northampton, six miles northwest of Piddington, having given him money with which to purchase some supplies for his master. Nichols also gave Carey permission to collect “Christmas boxes” for himself from the Northampton tradesmen whom they serviced.

From Mr. Hall, an ironmonger, Carey received a shilling, worth twelve pence. After collecting a few more shillings from other tradesmen, Carey went to purchase “some little articles” for himself. Only then did he discover that the shilling he had received from Hall was counterfeit, made of brass. He substituted one of Nichols’ shillings for the artificial one in order to complete the purchase. Too late he realized that his personal items had cost “a few pence” more than the gift money he had just collected. Expecting to be severely reproached by his master for his careless mishandling of money, Carey resolved “to declare strenuously” that Nichols himself had inadvertently given him the counterfeit coin when he entrusted funds to him with which to buy supplies for his master.

Carey afterward related: “I well remember the struggles of mind which I had on this occasion, and that I made this deliberate sin a matter of prayer to God as I passed over the fields [walking] home. I there promised that if God would but get me clearly over this, or in other words, help me through with the theft, I would certainly for the future leave off all evil practices. But this theft and consequent lying appeared to me so necessary that they could not be dispensed with. A Gracious God did not get me safe through.”

William Carey in middle age.

William Carey in middle age.

Nichols was suspicious and sent Warr to investigate the matter. Hall, the ironmonger, admitted having given Carey the bogus coin. Carey’s own attempted deception of his master was thus discovered and as a result: “I was therefore exposed to shame, reproach, and inward remorse, which increased and preyed upon my mind for a considerable time. I at this time sought the Lord perhaps much more earnestly than ever; but with shame and fear.”

The Lord graciously used that painful and humiliating event to help Carey realize his need to believe in and receive Christ Jesus as his Savior from sin. Not long after, when Carey was seventeen years old, he was born again spiritually through personal faith in Jesus.

This Christmas season as we celebrate the coming of Christ Jesus into the world, may we also be deeply grateful to God for showing us our own need for the Savior and for drawing us to saving faith in Him.

Copyright 2015 by Vance E. Christie

Christmas gift book pix 2
Recently I heard of a mother who is buying four gifts for each of her children this Christmas: something to wear; something they need; something for fun; something to read. Sounds like a good balance to me.

As one who has a great appreciation for (and writes) historic Christian biographies, allow me to promote that type of book in the “something to read” gift category. Such biographies are not only interesting and entertaining but also spiritually inspiring and instructive.

They relate the fascinating real-life stories of some of the most outstanding and significant Christians in the history of the Church. The examples of such faithful, fruitful Christian servants encourage and challenge us to love Jesus more deeply and to serve Him more actively, even sacrificially. We’re encouraged not only to be faithful but also faith-filled in our service of Christ.

Christmas gift books pix 1There are lots of good historic Christian biographies that have been published for younger children and older youth. Check out Christian Focus Publication’s Trailblazer series (under its CF4Kids imprint), YWAM’s Christian Heroes Then & Now series, as well as similar series by other publishers.

Plenty of great Christian biographies have been published for adults also. Be sure to peruse the outstanding biography offerings of Christian Focus Publications (including its History Makers series), EP Books (including its Bitesize Biographies), and Banner of Truth Trust. A number of other evangelical Christian publishers offer additional quality biographies.

When giving a biography as a gift, of course, it’s important to give a book that we think the recipient will find interesting. That could be about a person they’ve already heard of. Or it could be about an individual who, though unknown to them, had such a compelling story that we know they’ll find it engaging. It could also be a biography that really ministered to us, and we’re confident it will do the same for them.

Christmas gift books pix 3While children’s and youth biographies tend to be fairly consistent in story-like style and briefer length, adult biographies can differ more widely. Some adult-level biographies are intended for a popular audience and are of more manageable length. Others are more scholarly and extensive. Again, it’s good to give a biography according to the interest level of the person receiving it as a gift.

Biographies are good gifts not only for family members but also for friends. Biographies make great gifts for people we appreciate in ministry and for those who are preparing for vocational Christian service.

Of the biographies I’ve written, here’s who I think they would especially appeal to:

Hudson Taylor, Gospel Pioneer to China and John and Betty Stam, Missionary Martyrs – Great for youth (as opposed to very young children) and anyone interested in missions. Young adults processing the issues of marriage and call to vocational ministry may find the John and Betty Stam biography especially beneficial.

Women of Faith and Courage – Christian women and older girls will appreciate this collection of abbreviated biographies on Susanna Wesley, Fanny Crosby, Catherine Booth, Mary Slessor and Corrie ten Boom.

Timeless Stories, God’s Incredible Work in the Lives of Inspiring Christians – This collection of short, true stories from the lives of outstanding Christians on a variety of key themes (such as Family, Prayer, Service, Adversity, etc.) appeals to adults and youth alike. Great for personal reading or family devotions.

David Brainerd: A Flame for God, Adoniram Judson: Devoted for Life, and Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa – These somewhat longer volumes (300+ pages) are probably best suited for somewhat older and more serious biography readers. All three of these biographies would be encouraging reads for pastors, missionaries and lay leaders.

Happy shopping and beneficial reading to you and yours this Christmas season!

Copyright 2015 by Vance E. Christie

Randy Alcorn, in his book The Grace and Truth Paradox, tells the true story of Margaret Holder who was born in China to missionary parents serving with the China Inland Mission. In 1939, when Japan took control of eastern China, thirteen-year-old Margaret was imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp. She remained there, separated from her parents, for six years.

Eric Liddell

Eric Liddell

Another prisoner in that same camp was a vibrant missionary whom the children called “Uncle Eric.” He tutored some of them and was deeply loved by all the camp’s children. Uncle Eric, it turns out, was Eric Liddell, “The Flying Scot,” hero of the movie Chariots of Fire. Sadly, Liddell developed a brain tumor and died in the internment camp shortly after his forty-third birthday in 1945.

At times it seemed unbearable for Margaret and the other children to be cut off from their homes and families for such a protracted period of time. They were delighted and heartened occasionally by “care packages falling from the sky” in the form of barrels of food and other supplies dropped from American airplanes for the prisoners.

One day after Margaret had reached nineteen years of age, the children were lined up as usual for roll call. Suddenly an American plane flew overhead, circled around and began dropping more of those wonderful food barrels. “But this time the barrels had legs!” Margaret afterward related. The sky was full of paratroopers descending to rescue them.

Solder with childThe Japanese guards offered no resistance. Margaret and several hundred children rushed out of the camp to greet their rescuers. So great was the children’s joy and gratitude that they threw themselves on their deliverers, hugging and kissing them.

The biblical Christmas narratives contain repeated instances of people glorifying God and rejoicing in His sending of their Savior. Mary exclaimed, “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). The angel announced to the shepherds: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). After going to see the Savior for themselves, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:20).

Manger and crossThe Bible’s Christmas story is so familiar that many of us fail to fully appreciate or respond appropriately to the profound reality it communicates. At Christmastime we celebrate God’s sending of His very own Son to be our Deliverer from captivity to sin and Satan. Jesus came to rescue us not only from our spiritual bondage but also from the present and eternal consequences that our sins deserve. If Christ had not come as our Savior, we would never have gained freedom from our sin and its consequences.

In light of that our hearts should overflow with praise and gratitude and joy to our Savior who has rescued us. May those responses to Christ Jesus be true of us this Christmas season as we contemplate His coming.

Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie


Christ in the MangerIn December of 1949 Geoffrey Bull, a British missionary to Tibet, was seized by Communist soldiers. Day and night his captors drove him across frigid mountains, leaving him cold, hungry, exhausted and despairing of life. Late one afternoon he entered a small village where he was shown to an upstairs room that was swept clean and heated by a small charcoal brazier.

After being provided a meager supper, he was ordered to go downstairs, where the animals were kept under part of the house, to feed the horses. After making his way down a notched tree trunk into the stable, he found himself standing in pitch blackness. His boots squished in the manure and straw on the floor, and the stench of animals was nauseating. Cold, weary, lonely and ill, he began to feel sorry for himself.

As he continued to grope his way in the darkness, expecting to be kicked at any moment by one of the ill-tempered horses, the thought suddenly flashed into his mind, “What’s today?” He had to think for a moment, because while traveling the days had begun to run together. Then it came to him, “It’s Christmas Eve.”

Later he wrote in his book When Iron Gates Yield: “I stood suddenly still in that Oriental manger. To think that my Savior was born in a place like this. To think that He came all the way from heaven to some wretched eastern stable, and what is more to think that He came for me. How men beautify the cross and the crib, as if to hide the fact that at birth we resigned Him to the stench of beasts and at death exposed Him to the shame of rogues.”

Bull added, “I returned to the warm, clean room which I enjoyed even as a prisoner, bowed to thankfulness and worship.”

The Manger and the CrossThis Christmas season may we similarly thank and praise the Lord Jesus Christ for leaving the glories of heaven to come to earth in our behalf. As God the Son He lowered Himself infinitely by coming to be born in such humble circumstances, by serving humankind with His life and by dying on the cross for our sins.

The timeless words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-11 remind us of both Christ’s condescension and subsequent exaltation: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie