Christmas is the time when we focus our attention on one of God’s great promises. This is the promise of Immanuel, God with us. Isaiah and Matthew point us to this promise when they write, “Behold, the virgin will conceive and bring forth a son and you will call him Immanuel, meaning God with us.” (Isaiah 7:14 & Matthew 1:23) This tremendous promise changes everything about the lives that we live.
In thinking about this I came across this quotation which formed the inspiration for Anne Ross Cousin’s Hymn originally entitled “Last Words” but now known by the name “The Sands of Time are sinking.”
“But the summons found him ill and like to die, and the court prepared to try him, received the treasured and characteristic answer: “I am summoned before a superior court and judiciary; and I behove to answer my first summons and ere your day arrive, I will be where few Kings and great folks come.”
He died at St. Andrews, March 20th, 1661. Late in the afternoon of the final day of his stormy life, just as the sun was sinking, he was asked by one of the friends standing by the couch. “What think you now of Christ?” To which he gave the answer: “Oh that all my brethren in the land may know what a Master I have served, and what peace I have this day! I shall sleep in Christ, and then I awake I shall be satisfied with His likeness. This night shall close the door, and put my anchor within the veil; and I shall go away in a sleep by five in the morning. Glory! Glory: to my Creator and my redeemer forever! I shall live and adore Him. Oh for arms to embrace Him! Oh for a well tuned harp! Glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land!” At precisely five in the morning as predicted, he crossed the border into Immanuel’s land, there to feast his eyes on “the King in His beauty.”
Here are the lyrics to Anne Ross Cousin’s hymn inspired by these words.
“The sands of time are sinking. The dawn of heaven breaks, the summer morn I’ve sighed for, the fair sweet morn awakes. Dark, dark has been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand. And glory, glory dwelleth In Immanuel’s land.
Oh, Christ, He is the fountain, the deep sweet well of love; the streams on earth I’ve tasted, more deep I’ll drink above; There to an ocean fullness, His mercy doth expand, and glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.
With mercy and with judgment, my web of time He wove, and aye the dews of sorrow, were lustred with His love. I’ll bless the heart that planned, when throned where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.
Oh, I am my Beloved’s, and my beloved’s mine; He brings a poor vile sinner into His “house of wine.” I stand upon His merit; I know no safer stand, not e’en where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.
The bride eyes not her garment, but her dear bridegroom’s face; I will not gaze at glory, but on my King of grace; not at the crown He giveth, but on His pierced hand: The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land.”
The original version of this hymn contained over twenty verses. Our modern version has retained these five. I want to draw your attention to one of the other verses however as it expresses the hope that is ours in Christ in the Gospel message. Ours is indeed a resurrection faith.
“I shall sleep sound in Jesus, fill’d with His likeness rise, to live and to adore Him, to see Him with these eyes, ‘Tween me and resurrection but paradise doth stand; Then – then for glory dwelling in Immanuel’s land.”
This message of Immanuel is the heart of the Christmas celebration. Here we find a hope which is firmly rooted in the promise of God to redeem us so that we will live in His land eternally. Praise God for His great love for us.
Have a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.