Manger Leads to a Cross
We don’t often think of the connection between the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus and the Good Friday scene of crucifixion. But one hymnist made the connection. Charles Albert Tindley, an African-American Methodist pastor from the mid-1880’s until his death in 1933 made a very clear connection between the manger and the cross in his hymn/sermon “Heaven’s Christmas Tree.” Rev. Tindley lived and served in Philadelphia at the Bainbridge Street Methodist Episcopal Church (in 1924 the name was changed to Tindley Temple in honor of their pastor). His popular sermon with this hymn as its focus, used Revelation 22:2 as the text. His sermon became so popular that the church had to rent a large arena to hold the many worshipers who came to hear him preach of birth, salvation, love, help and eternal life. This hymn was always part of that powerful witness to God’s love and the gifts of a manger and a cross.
I have heard of a tree, a great Christmas tree,
It was fixed in yon Bethlehem’s stall.
The blessings of heaven for you and for me,
A Christmas present for all.
There is a package for me on that tree;
A precious token that some one loves me,
O yes, I can see, on Calvary’s Tree
That there is a package for me.
Each stanza that followed emphasized the “gifts” that were placed on the tree. One was “ labeled salvation;” another had a “title of love;” and another said:
Another I see, it must be for me.
The words “I will help you” I read,
While holding His hand, by faith I can stand,
And this is the package I need.
The last stanza spoke of the “happy home with God near the throne.”
Tindley wrote forty-six hymns during his life-time, of which he wrote both words and music to forty-two. canadian online casinos There are five of his hymns included in the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal including “We’ll Understand It Better By and By.” His hymns spoke of the struggles of life as well as the assurance of God’s presence and love. He believed and preached that within the gospel of Jesus Christ there is a place for everyone.
As you enjoy this Christmas may you find and experience “the package for me.”
Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, and quarterly retreats and art exhibits.