She Stoops to Conquer is a ‘comedy of manners’ written by Anglo-Irish author Oliver Goldsmith, and first performed in London in 1773. Based around themes of  miscommunication, mistaken identities and practical jokes, it’s one of the few plays from the 18th century to have an enduring appeal, and is still regularly performed today.

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Main plot: wealthy countryman, Mr. Hardcastle, arranges for his daughter, Kate, to meet Charles Marlow, son of a rich land-owner, hoping the pair will marry.

Marlow sets out for Hardcastle’s manor with a friend, but they get lost and stop at an alehouse for directions. Kate’s step-brother comes across the strangers at the alehouse and, realising their identity, plays a practical joke by telling them they’re a long way from their destination and will have to stay overnight at an inn. The “inn” he directs them to is in fact the home of the Hardcastles. When they arrive the Hardcastles, who have been expecting them, go out of their way to make them welcome. However, Marlow and friend, believing they are guests at an inn, behave extremely disrespectfully towards their hosts.

Kate learns of her step-brother’s trickery, and, being further aware of Marlow’s reputation for nervousness around upper-class women, she decides to masquerade as a maid, changing both her accent and garb, and hoping that by putting Marlow at his ease will make him more inclined to woo her – thus stooping to conquer. The play concludes with Kate’s plan succeeding: she and Marlow become engaged !!

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Returning to the 21st Century, and reflecting on this Christmas season, I’m reminded of that mind-blowing act of condescension, described sublimely by St Paul in one of his letters, concerning the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Paul writes: “though He was truly God, he did not try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Then God gave Christ the highest place and honoured his Name above all others. So at the Name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.” (Contemporary English Version)

A beautiful phrase in one of David’s psalms foresees this wondrous act of our Sovereign Saviour – in humbling Himself  to bring about our salvation, and so elevating us from our dire condition and into His amazing favour. It says: “You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great“. I wonder if Frederick W. Faber had such imagery in mind as he penned his excellent hymn: My God how wonderful Thou art, as the fifth verse depicts the Sovereign Lord bowing to win the hearts of His errant and erring creatures:

Yet I may love thee too O Lord

Almighty as Thou art

For Thou hast stooped to ask of me

The love of my poor heart

And was this the subject of his meditations, when Graham Kendrick wrote the words of his modern classic, Servant King:

From heaven you came helpless babe

Entered our world, your glory veiled

Not to be served but to serve

And give Your life that we might live

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Reason enough for me to respond: “This is my God, the Servant King” and worship Him, along with countless billions of people alive on earth and in heaven at this joy-filled time.

May your heart thrill at the sound of His Name, too.