Mild He lays His glory by.” From “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” by Charles Wesley
“The Word became flesh and lived among us.” John 1:14
“He did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” Philippians 2:6
We are living in anxious times. Perhaps that is why I am noticing a line from a beloved Christmas carol that I have been singing for decades without really thinking about what it means. There it is, tucked away in verse 4 of “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.” Between “Risen with healing in His wings,” and “Born that we no more may die,” between Easter and Christmas, between earthly hope for healing and heavenly hope for eternal life … there comes this seemingly simply phrase: “Mild He lays His glory by.”
It sounds a little archaic, but it is still accessible. I think we could all imagine what it would mean to lay one’s glory by. To take our shining high points and put them away in a box. To take the things we are proudest of and refuse to make anything of them. Laying our glory by is a fancy way of talking about humility. That is clear when we think of the Son of God taking on the flesh of human sinners. Jesus is clearly trading in a first-class status for a third-class one. As Paul says in Philippians, Jesus empties Himself of His God-equality and is born in human likeness. He humbles Himself.
The word that is easy to miss is “mild.” Yes, He lays His glory by. But what is His state of mind as He does so? Is He reluctant? Nervous? Excited? Cautious? No. He is mild. Calm. Serene. Chilled. Jesus comes into the deeply troubled world with a non-anxious presence. Mild, He lays His glory by. He comes as a peace-maker, as Bishop Ken Carter elucidates in his recent Christmas letter on behalf of our Council of Bishops.
As we are barraged daily with anxious news from our nation’s capital, as we wrestle with existential anxiety from our personal burdens, as we anxiously ponder our denomination’s future, I pray that we may be blessed with a rebirth of the peace of Jesus Christ, guarding our hearts and minds (as Paul says later in Philippians 4:7). As we come to adore Him this Christmas, may we leave with the blessings of His peace. So that our lives may be more happy and hopeful, and we may be agents of that blessing to others.
Merry Non-Anxious Christmas!
Grace and Peace,