Words and Music – John W. Peterson
O what a wonderful, wonderful day-
Day I will never forget;
After I’d wandered in darkness away,
Jesus my Savior I met.
O what a tender, compassionate friend-
He met the need of my heart;
Shadows dispelling, With joy I am telling,
He made all the darkness depart!
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross the Savior made me whole;
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day-
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!
Born of the Spirit with life from above
Into God’s family divine,
Justified fully through Calvary’s love,
O what a standing is mine!
And the transaction so quickly was made
When as a sinner I came,
Took of the offer Of grace He did proffer-
He saved me, O praise His dear name!
Now I’ve a hope that will surely endure
After the passing of time;
I have a future in heaven for sure.
There in those mansions sublime.
And its because of that wonderful day
What at the cross I believed;
Riches eternal And blessings supernal
From His precious hand I received.
This wonderful song was written in the summer of 1961 inspired by an event that took place at the Montrose Bible Conference Grounds in Montrose, Pennsylvania. In one of the testimonies, the song writer John W. Peterson said that “During one of the sessions an opportunity for a time of personal testimonies was given the audience, and an old man called Jim rose to his feet and told of his conversion experience. In describing that night when he met Christ, he used the phrase ‘It seemed like Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.’
“Right away John W. Peterson sensed that it would be a fine title for a song, so, John wrote it down and later in the week completed the song. It became a favorite almost immediately.”
The song born that day in 1961 has blessed the hearts of people worldwide. John W. Peterson wrote more than one thousand songs and fifteen cantatas that have sold more than three million copies. But this song is one of the most beloved among Christians. I remember singing this song during the scripture union meetings in the mid 1980s.
About the Song Writer: Biography: John W. Peterson (November 1, 1921 – September 20, 2006) was a songwriter who had a major influence on evangelical Christian music in the 1950s through the 1970s. He wrote over 1000 songs, and 35 cantatas.
Born in Lindsborg, Kansas, he served as an Army Air Force pilot flying the China Hump during World War II. Later, he attended Moody Bible Institute and served on the radio staff there for a number of years.
In 1953, he graduated from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago and shortly thereafter settled in Pennsylvania to continue his song writing career. He then moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where for over ten years he was President and Editor-in-Chief of Singspiration, a sacred music publishing company. While there, he compiled and edited a hymnal called “Great Hymns of the Faith”, (c) 1961. He also served on the board of Gospel Films, Inc. of Muskegon, Michigan.
He also had direct contact with popular Christian musicians of the day such as Bill Pearce and Dick Anthony. He resided in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he continued to write music. Peterson died September 20, 2006, aged 84, following a bout with prostate cancer.
Some of his more popular song titles include “It Took a Miracle”, “Over the Sunset Mountains”, “Heaven Came Down”, “So Send I You”, “Springs of Living Water”, “Jesus is Coming Again”, “Surely Goodness and Mercy” and “This is the day that the Lord hath made”. His cantatas include Night of Miracles and Down From His Glory.
In 1986, he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
When Heaven Came Down: The Concept
Christians frequently speak of “going to heaven.” This idea is not foreign to the Bible. Jesus says to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). But “going to heaven” is not the characteristic idiom of the Bible. More characteristic of the Bible is to speak of heaven coming down.
The Bible is framed by two instances of heaven coming down: Genesis 3, where God walks in the garden in the cool of the day; and Revelation 21, which describes the descent of the New Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God, from heaven to earth. In between are many other instances
John 1:14 NIV: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
It’s the Advent season again. Advent is the time of the year we are reminded of the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Advent ends at Christmas. Christmas Day is the day we traditionally celebrate the birth of Jesus. It does not matter whether He was really born on 25th December or not. What is important that Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in a manger in Bethlehem.
John the Evangelist describes this event as when the “Word becomes flesh.” What does he mean by that? And why do we Christians, allow Christmas to by hijacked by the world so that
- Christmas is consumerism at its worst- buy, buy, buy
- Christmas is Christmas tree and Christmas log cakes
- Christmas is a holiday. First they remove Christ from Christmas (it is now X-mas)
- Christmas is Christmas card of a baby in a barn with animals and snow outside with shepherds hanging around.
Does our perception of Christmas affect what we believe about Jesus? Christmas is about Jesus. Who is this Jesus and why should we celebrate his birth? I believe that we have allowed Christmas to be hijacked because of our perceptions of Jesus. Our perceptions lead us to behave differently.
(1) The Word became flesh
The Word (Logos v. 1) became flesh. “Flesh” in this verse means a human nature, not sinfulness or weakness. Christ, the eternal Logos, who is God, came to earth as man. Yet in doing so, he did not merely “appear” like a man. Humanity, in other words, was added to Christ’s deity. And yet Christ, in becoming “flesh,” did not change; so perhaps the word “became” (egeneto) should be understood as “took to himself” or “arrived on the scene as.” I like Eugene Peterson’s translation of the passage in The Message, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
As far back as man can think, in the beginning . . . the Word was existing. The term “Word” is the common Greek word logos, which meant “speaking, a message, or words.” “Logos” was widely used in Greek philosophical teaching as well as in Jewish wisdom literature and philosophy. John chose this term because it was familiar to his readers, but he invested it with his own meaning, which becomes evident in the prologue.
The Word was with God in a special relationship of eternal fellowship in the Trinity. The word “with” translates the Greek pros, which here suggests “in company with” (the same use of pros in 1:2; 1 Thes. 3:4; 1 John 1:2). John then added that the Word was God. Jehovah’s Witnesses translate this clause, “The Word was a god.” This is incorrect and logically is polytheism. Others have translated it “the Word was divine,” but this is ambiguous and could lead to a faulty view of Jesus. If this verse is correctly understood, it helps clarify the doctrine of the Trinity. The Word is eternal; the Word is in relationship to God (the Father); and the Word is God.
1:2. The Word has always been in a relationship with God the Father. Christ did not at some point in time come into existence or begins a relationship with the Father. In eternity past the Father (God) and the Son (the Word) have always been in a loving communion with each other.
(2) made his dwelling among us.
In the Greek the words lived for a while among us recall God’s dwelling with Israel in the Old Testament. The word “lived” is eskeµnoµsen, from skeµneµ (“tabernacle”). Thus, the tabernacle becomes the site of God’s localized presence here on earth. Much as God’s presence was in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34), so Jesus dwelt among people.
Ezekiel has a vision recorded in chapters 43 and 44. This time Ezekiel sees that the temple is going to be restored. At that time, the glory of the Lord will fill the temple; the Lord will dwell with his people; and his people will come and worship him. At this time in the future, the Lord will live among his people forever. I believe that the temple that Ezekiel 44:4 is speaking about is none other than the person and work of our Lord, Jesus Christ! John 1:14 speaks of the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision of the future temple.
The Lord himself now comes to dwell (to tabernacle) among his people. But he does not come in tabernacles or temples constructed with human hands; rather he comes with our flesh, so that in his work we can behold his glory–the glory of the signs and wonders that he does for the salvation of man.
(3) We have seen his glory,
We have seen most naturally implies that the author was an eyewitness. The greatest testimony is a reliable eyewitness. John was among some of his disciples who beheld the revelation of his glory in a very realistic way when Jesus was transfigured before them. Christ appeared before them with “divine honour, divine splendour, divine power, and as the divine radiance of God himself.” Indeed, the glory of God is fully revealed in his Son.
(4) the glory of the One and Only,
His glory refers to the unique splendour and honour seen in Jesus’ life, miracles, death, and resurrection. The one and only Son (homogenous; John 1:18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9) means that Jesus is the Son of God in a sense totally different from a human who believes and becomes a child of God.
(5) who came from the Father,
Jesus’ sonship is unique for He is eternal and is of the same essence as the Father.
(6) full of grace and truth.
The glorious revelation of God which the Logos displayed was full of grace and truth, that is, it was a gracious and truthful revelation (cf. John 1:17).