Hymnology: Come Adore the Humble King

Posted by John Gardner on December 9, 2023
Hymnology: Come Adore the Humble King
Art: block print by Andrew England.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14

Hymn Story

At the time of Christ’s birth, the Jewish people had been waiting centuries for the Messiah to come in power and glory to deliver them from their enemies. They expected a conqueror, yet when the Word became flesh, He did not come triumphant and surrounded by armies, but humbly and surrounded by livestock. Still, His arrival was heralded as glorious by the powerful hosts of heaven.

Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus carried himself with humility. Even when He was lauded as a king as He made his way to Jerusalem to fight His greatest battle against the enslaver of His people, He arrived just as the prophet Zechariah had foretold, “humble, and mounted on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5).

In their hymn Come Adore the Humble King, Matt Boswell and Matt Papa implore us to reflect on the mystery of how the great and all-powerful Creator of the universe could come as a tiny baby, wage and win the war against sin and death, and conquer our pride with his own humility. It’s truly a love which none can comprehend!


Come adore the humble King
Lowly in the manger
Fall before His majesty
Hail the little Savior
Hope, what hope no tongue could tell
God has come with us to dwell
His name is Emmanuel
O praise the humble King

Come adore in humble state
He the song of angels
Join the wise who call His name
And with all creation
Who, oh, who would condescend
God unknown now calls us friend
Love that none could comprehend
O praise the humble King

Come adore the King who came
To our world to save us
Born to heal our prideful race
Crown us with forgiveness
Fall, oh, fall before the One
Who in mercy left His throne
Christ the Lord, God’s only Son
His glories now we sing
O praise the humble King

Come adore, come adore
Come adore the King
Bow before, come adore
The Name above all names

Hymn Study

One of the most enduring symbols of Christmas is a Nativity scene. Many of us probably have these in our home during the Advent season. And while many of them may leave something to be desired from a theological/chronological standpoint—the Magi were certainly not gathered around the manger with the shepherds as the angels sang “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” and the little drummer boy played pa-rum-pum-pum-pum—nativity scenes have shared one important thing in common since the earliest known examples (dating to the 4th century): They all depict the Messiah’s humble incarnation as a baby.

Why is this important? Because it is so unexpected! Perhaps the only thing more surprising than the exalted Son of Almighty God condescending to live on earth is that he would one day suffer and die for us.

Imagery such as nativity scenes and crosses became particularly popular during the Medieval period, when the vast majority of Christians did not read, and church services were conducted in a language they did not speak. These visual references helped to reinforce the main points of Christian doctrine.

Today, when we are blessed with greater access to God’s Word than any generation before has ever known, our best art still gives greatest emphasis these two most important moments in human history: the incarnation of Christ and his victory over sin and death on the cross.

Come Adore the Humble King is, in a sense, an aural nativity scene. In the first two verses, we come and worship the humble Christ-child, just as the shepherds did long ago in Bethlehem. With the angels, we sing His glory. With the wise men we call on His name, and with all of God’s creatures we marvel at His friendship.

In verse 3, we are reminded of the cross—the purpose for which Jesus left His throne—and see anew the wonderful, unexpected gifts which we have received in Christ. When we think of the Messiah in the manger, we remember that He came in humility to heal our pride. The King who was mocked with a crown of thorns now crowns us with forgiveness. This mercy is astounding!

As we celebrate His birth, may we never forget His death, burial, and resurrection. For Christ, the humble King, the cross was but a way-stop between the manger and the throne.

John Gardner

John is the pastor over Music Ministry at Faith Bible Church. He is a coffee aficionado who loves most kinds of music, but has a particular fondness for big band (especially when he's playing trumpet in the band). He and his wife, Laurie, have 3 kids who enjoy reading, hiking, and the symphony.

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