John Fawcett, English Baptist preacher, author, and hymn-writer, entered the ministry as a Baptist pastor in 1764, pastoring a church in Halifax for the next 53 years until his death. He is mostly remembered today as the author of “Blest Be the Tie that Binds,” his most well-known hymn. But he also authored a remarkable book Christ Precious to Those That Believe, published in 1799. Fawcett’s purpose in writing is to open up to us the love of Christ and teach us to love Him more.
Christmas is all about love—the love of Jesus who left heaven’s glory to enter our dark world, become one of us, and die for our sins. Another hymn-writer, Charles Wesley, expressed this same love in one of his most famous hymns, “And Can It Be”:
He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
What was the purpose of that first Christmas in Bethlehem? Incarnation. God became man. Emmanuel—God with us. And what was the purpose of that incarnation? Calvary. “Unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given.” To what purpose? That he should die for our sins.
Such love! “But God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). “Amazing love! how can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
Because of Christmas and because of Calvary, Christ is indeed precious to those of us who believe.
This Christmas, we recognize that we can only love Jesus because he first loved us!
Fawcett reminds me how I should strive to love Jesus more: “If such a Savior is not precious to us, nothing can equal our ingratitude.” While still getting over my conviction at this statement, Fawcett has the audacity to inflict me again: “Surely they who love him most, have reason still to be grieved that they do not love him more, and sing the wonders of redeeming love.”
Several years ago, each day as a part of my prayer time, I lifted up to the Lord these words of George Croly’s hymn, “Spirit of God Descend Upon My Heart”:
Spirit of God descend upon my heart,
Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art,
And teach me to love the as thine angels love.
Teach me to love thee as thy angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The baptism of the heavenly descended dove,
My heart an altar, thy love the flame.
What do I want this Christmas? To give Jesus the gift of my love…and perhaps take my cue from John Fawcett’s prayer in Christ Precious to Those Who Believe:
To thy love I must ascribe my whole salvation and through all the ages of a blissful eternity, I humbly hope and trust, I shall proclaim the wonders of redeeming love, and tell to listening angels what this love has done for my soul. “Unto him that loved us; and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests to God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Along with Isaac Watts, let’s sing about “the glories of His righteousness…and the wonders of His love!”
Merry Christmas! Maranatha!
David L. Allen is Distinguished Professor of Preaching, George W. Truett Chair of Ministry, and Director of Southwestern Center for Text-Driven Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.