‘Tis the season, and the music of the season is already in the air. You certainly hear it in worship, but you might also hear it on the radio and in the mall. The Christian carols compete these days with Frosty and Rudolf, but if you listen carefully, you still can hear what happened in Bethlehem so long ago.
Interestingly, those carols shape how we hear the story even more than the Scriptures do. According to the gospel of Luke, the angels responded to Jesus’ birth by proclaiming their praise of God. However, most of us, remembering the carol, believe that the herald angels did not only speak but sang their announcement. According to the gospel of Matthew, an unspecified number of magi came from the East to offer presents to the newborn. From the carol, we know that there were three, and moreover, they were kings. I am not personally bothered by such discrepancies. For the most part, they are trivia that you can share at your next Christmas party. However, there is one carol that I sing under protest or at least with a caveat.
In the third verse of “Away in a Manger,” we sing
“The cattle are lowing The poor Baby wakes But little Lord Jesus No crying He makes”
The gospels do not mention whether or not Jesus as a baby cried. I assume that the author of the carol wanted to emphasize that Jesus was somehow different from other babies, and the assumption is that “good” little babies don’t cry.
Unfortunately, I disagree. I believe that Jesus was fully divine. However, Jesus was not like Clark Kent waiting for the right moment to become Superman. He was fully human. He got hungry like other babies. He wet himself like other babies. He cried like other babies. The Scriptures say that Jesus “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself…” (Philippians 2:6-7).
Frankly, I am grateful that Jesus knows my humanity in its fullness, especially my weakness. At the death of his friend Lazarus, we read, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). In order to face the challenges that come, I want to know that even my hunger, pain, and sorrow has been redeemed by what Jesus Christ has done.
Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine; Love was born at Christmas, Star and angels gave the sign.