Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne
Written by Emily E.S. Elliot in 1864 to teach children the wondrous truths of the advent and nativity, this was written for St. Marks Anglican Church in Brighton, England.

Unlike most Christmas hymns and carols, Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne does not just focus on the hope that we have in Christmas, but ponders the astronomical cost at which this hope came, which should cause every Christian to worship in joyous grief; that the only Son of God could even descend to this sin-stricken earth to live a hard life and to die a cruel death.

Thou didst leave Thy throne And Thy kingly crown
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home Was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee.

The carol kicks off by describing a geographic translation of shocking proportions:  Jesus, God Himself, leaving aside his heavenly home and His royalty descending to this lowly rock we call Earth.

In Isaiah 66:1, God says “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house that ye build unto me?”

Yet in the mystery of the nativity, as we see so poetically described in this stanza, we see this same God descending to dwell upon his own footstool! The God, who sits upon a throne “high and lifted up”, with myriads of seraphim’s surrounding His Holy presence (Isaiah 6), left that throne to dwell amongst sinful men.

Scarce could man comprehend such great condescension!  The One who had no start and knows no end becoming confined in time and tense.  Royalty was robed in the flesh he created and the One who knows all things embraced a baby’s mind.  The one who upholds all things by His very power (Heb 1:3) was held within a mother’s arms.  The monarch of the stars was born beneath the stars he created, breathed the very air His breath sustained and tread the earth which he laid the foundations for. (Job 38).  The artisan drew Himself within the paint, the architect clambered within the plan, the author wrote Himself into the page. Indeed, the Word of God Himself, which was there at the very beginning (John 1:1), was made flesh, and we beheld His glory.  (John 1:14).

But that’s not all.  When Jesus came to this earth, he was received with no royal procession or the fanfare befitting someone of His immeasurable stature.  Luke 2:7 tells us Jesus was born in a dirty, smelly feeding trough, and that there was no room for Him in the inn of Bethlehem. O irony of ironies! That the King of all Kings should come to the City of the King, and for the City to have no room for Him.

Such a life of vagrancy would characterize Jesus’ earthly ministry, for foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man had no place to lay his head. (Matt 8:20).  A life of temptation in the wilderness (Matt 4), weariness and thirst (John 4:6), of seeking small hours of sleep in stormy seas (Mark 4).

Indeed, so free and infinite was Jesus’ grace, in leaving His Father’s throne above!

Heaven’s arches rang When the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth Didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee.

The second stanza of the carol speaks of the adulation Jesus received in heaven; praise befitting Him who is worthy of all worship.  But where the very mention of Jesus’ name caused the morning stars to sing together (Job 38:7) and the angels to sing so loudly in heaven that even its very arches would resound and tremble, such praises would be few and far between for Jesus while He was on earth.

Isaiah 53 prophesied that he would be despised and rejected by Men, and that people would hide their faces from him and esteem him not. (Isa 53:5).  While Jesus was here on this earth, he would face persecution from the leaders of the religion meant to worship Him, doubt and disdain from His own family members, and betrayal from His closest disciples.  He would be accused of a crime He did not commit and be rejected in favor of a murderer. (John 18:40).  In all this, he responded with great humility, for when he was afflicted, he opened not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7) and was silent as he stood accused.  And just as Jesus was born of lowly birth upon a piece of wood that the lambs would feed upon, so too would He breathe His last upon the bloody cross alongside criminals, dying as the Lamb of God.

The first two stanzas conclude with an invitation for Jesus to come into the heart of the believer.  Have you responded with the love, praise, and adulation that Christ deserves, or have you relegated Him to the mangers of your soul, to wander the wilderness of your lukewarmness or chosen the idols of your heart instead of God’s own son?  Indeed, there is only one right response to Christmas, and that is to present our heart as the throne that Jesus so rightfully deserves.  The great love of our Saviour constrains us, that we who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.  (2 Cor 5:14-15).

Thou camest, O Lord, With the living word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, And with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
Thy cross is my only plea.

Moving on to the third stanza, the author shifts the focus to the Crucifixion, which is irresistibly intertwined with Christmas. Jesus was not just born into the world, but He was born to die and came to save His people from His sins.

But though the Light of the World shone into the world, the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:5).  He came unto His own, and His own knew Him not (John 1:13).  And in their unbelief, His own people delivered Him up to die the death of a criminal, beaten, scourged, stripped of His clothing; the hands that flung stars into space nailed to a cursed tree upon Calvary.

But in God’s supreme sovereignty, the mocking scorn and thorns that were meant by Man for the greatest evil ever known in history was turned for good,  and became the very means by which God would set His people free.  For in being nailed to the cross, Jesus would become an atoning sacrifice for our sins( Rom 3:25) to satisfy the holy wrath of God against sin, and in so doing, save us from all!

And though many have mocked and shamed the Son of God even to this day and age, to those who receive Him, He gives them the power to become the sons of God, to those who believe in His name, His death and His resurrection. (John 1:12).  It is this wondrous thought that causes the hymnist to cry: “Thy Cross is my only plea.”  Indeed, we who were guilty, who stood rightfully condemned before a Holy God, are no longer slaves to sin and appointed for wrath, but are now the sons and daughters of God, draped in a righteousness that is not our own.

Who can bring a charge against us, it is God who has justified us! (Rom 8:33) Who can be against us, if God be for us (Rom 8:31) and can be called our Abba Father (Rom 8:15)? What can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus? (Rom 8:39) The answer to all these questions is a resounding “Nothing!”, for in the advent, and in the cross for which it transpired, we find our only plea.

When heav’n’s arches ring, And her choirs shall sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, Saying, “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee!”
My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

The hymn ends in glorious crescendo, depicting Christ’s Second Coming, when Christ leaves His throne and descends upon the earth once again, no longer in weakness or lowliness, but in the fullness of his majesty and His glory.  He who is “Faithful and True” comes, no longer in a squalid trough from which horses fed, but astride a white horse blazing in glory. (Rev 19:11) He comes, no longer to bear a crown of cruel thorns, but with many royal crowns upon His head. (Rev 19:12) He comes, no longer to an audience of shepherds and their sheep, but to strike down the nations and to rule with an iron scepter, to overthrow all that is evil in this world. (Rev 19:14)

But marvelously, though He comes in such royal splendor, He does not forget His people, the ones for whom He died to raise as the sons of God. He comes to call us to His home, in which there are many mansions (John 14:2), the mansions which he left those thousands of years ago to redeem us.  He comes to tell us there is room at His side, His precious bleeding side that was pierced for the sake of us all.  On that day when Jesus comes, we will all be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:16).

The joy of the first Advent was the mystery of the Son of God coming down to this earth to be a Son of Man, but the joy of the second will be the Sons of Man rising up to become the Sons of God.  O Christian, this Christmas, is your heart filled with joy and eager expectation of that day when Jesus shall come and call for you, to worship Him before a throne that He will never leave again, that will be forever and ever? (Ps 45:6).