There’s something odd about the way Christmas carols depict the infant Jesus, writes Rev David.
Do the words of many of our most popular Christmas carols strike you as odd? The great feast of the Incarnation: God with us, revealed in the man Jesus, in the child of Bethlehem. And what do we sing about this?. “The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay,” “Christian children all must be, mild, obedient, good as He.” Am I alone in feeling a contrast between this hymnody and what babies are really like? A real disconnection with the great Advent themes still to come as a prelude to Christmas.
So clearly there is a huge transforming and inspiring power in the faith that the immensity of God’s love extended into that vulnerable, homeless child. He is truly the longed for fulfilment of Advent Hope in that most surprising of circumstances – however, let’s not so tightly swaddle Jesus from his birth through romanticised imagery. I’m grateful (as so often) to Rowan Williams for his insight in pointing out that “the often forgotten fact is that this is a real human child we are speaking of”.
Yet still we sing “But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.” Really? As Archbishop Rowan writes with understanding humour “Every parent in Christendom must have blinked with incredulous envy at this miracle: never mind the angels and the star, a baby who doesn’t cry when surrounded by a herd of hungry cows is much more of a prodigy!”
Babies as we know are generally pretty good at making their presence felt. They alter lives, forever, call forth the most instinctive of joys, love and care yet they also have an insistent presence, calling out – demanding. Is there a parallel with the Christ Child here, something in this? With a baby, of course, we struggle to comprehend at first; they need to acquire a language of sorts before we understand. With Our child of Bethlehem it is we who need to learn the understanding, the vocabulary for it is that of the Kingdom. He is God who in St Augustine’s words, penetrates our deafness with his loud crying.
Perhaps before Christmas comes we need our Advent to reflect on this vocabulary, to deepen our awareness of the language of the Kingdom. To listen to the loud crying call of love, justice, righteousness, acceptance and reconciliation – His presence in His world. Then may we truly hear what the proclamation means: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
With my blessings to you all for a very happy Christmas
David Baldwin Your Team Rector, Parish Priest and friend
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