The italicized hymn lyrics found below were written by Caroline M. Noel (1817-1877). I invite you to meditate on them with me.
At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess him King of glory now;
‘Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.
Philippians 2:1-11 teaches us that one day every knee will indeed bow at the name of Jesus. The one whom we remember in the current seasons of Lent and Resurrection is the very Word of God (John 1:1), who has existed with the Father and the Spirit from the beginning.
At his voice creation sprang at once to sight,
All the angel faces, all the hosts of light,
Thrones and dominations, stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders in their great array.
We frequently remember Jesus as the creator of all things that we can see: the sun, moon, and stars; the trees, flowers, and oceans; the horses, dogs, and cats. Yet scripture teaches (Colossians 1:15-16) that Jesus is the creator of all things, both visible and invisible. This Jesus is the one who holds all power and authority in his hand. Nothing in this universe has power to do anything outside the scope and wisdom of the authority of Christ.
Humbled for a season, to receive a name
From the lips of sinners unto whom he came,
Faithfully he bore it spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious when from death he passed.
This season is crucial for us as believers. We take special care to tell the story of Jesus: from Palm Sunday, through Maundy Thursday, to Good Friday, to Resurrection Sunday and beyond. Yet what a mystery it is that this is the same Jesus who created the universe! “Humbled for a season,” he took a human name through his life, death, and resurrection.
Bore it up triumphant with its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures, to the central height,
To the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.
Soon after his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven, where he now sits at the right hand of God the Father. Can you imagine what that ascension might have looked like? We often think of heaven as a “perfect rest”; read Hebrews 4 for a beautiful passage on that topic.
Name him, brothers, name him, with love as strong as death,
But with awe and wonder, and with bated breath;
He is God the Savior, he is Christ the Lord,
Ever to be worshipped, trusted, and adored.
“Love as strong as death” (Song of Solomon 8:6) is exactly the type of love that Jesus showed for us (John 15:12-13). Let us always remember to approach our Lord with humility, respect, and sacrificial love. The above verse is, I believe, my favorite of this hymn’s seven verses!
In your hearts enthrone him; there let him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true.
Crown him as your captain in temptation’s hour;
Let his will enfold you in its light and power.
In the Church of God, we call this “holiness” or “sanctification.” Those who come to believe in Jesus as Savior still have something left to experience: the complete removal of “all that is not holy/true” by the power of Christ. Our complete hearts and minds are to be turned over to the Lord, so that his will becomes the course of our lives.
Brothers, this Lord Jesus shall return again,
With his Father’s glory, with his angel train;
For all wreaths of empire meet upon his brow,
And our hearts confess him King of glory now.
Until that day, when Jesus will return in his glory, we remain faithful. Be encouraged, brothers and sisters: the story of Jesus is true, and it is Truth. Confess Christ as “King of glory” (Psalm 24) every day, and allow him to continue to transform your lives!
(Here’s a video of a choral arrangement of this hymn.)