Once in royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed, where a mother laid her baby in a manger for his bed: Mary was that mother mild; Jesus Christ, her little child.
This morning our congregation will be celebrating a service of Lessons & Carols. Though it is based upon the most famous model from King’s College in England, we have adapted it for our own context. Nevertheless, this processional hymn remains the same.
Traditionally, the first verse is sung by a young soprano, who is told only moments beforehand that they will be singing by themselves in front of a whole lot of people. I myself had the chance to sing it in high school, with little warning, and it is a truly magical and incredibly daunting experience. For it is this song that sets the tone for the entire service.
The worship is meant to retell the salvation story from Genesis through the gospels. And at the heart of the story lies the little baby in the cattle shed. However, the child represents something much more than simply a sweet children’s story: he came down to earth from heaven who is God and Lord of all, and his shelter was a stable, and his cradle was a stall; with the poor and meek and lowly, lived on earth our Savior holy.
Our God came to live among us, to make a home with us. Not only that, but God did not come to the rich and powerful, but to the poor, oppressed, lost, outcast – all the “lowly” people that the world chooses to forget. Imagine what the world would look like if God’s followers took the lead from the child whose “cradle was a stall.”
The best part of this hymn, as it sets the stage, is that it refuses to let the story be all about us. God came down for all. Jesus spent his time among the unwanted. It is not my personal salvation at stake here – it’s the whole world. We may lose sight of this fact, however, it is an essential truth for those who would follow the Christ-child.
As we prepare for the final week before Christmas, let us turn our focus to Bethlehem, but not forget to look around for the other children of God (of all ages) who are like the child who found no room at the inn. And may this final verse reassure us in our work: And our eyes at last shall see him, through his own redeeming love; for that child so dear and gentle is our Lord in heaven above; and he leads his children on to the place where he is gone.
Reverse Advent Calendar: In some parts of the world, families leave out shoes instead of stockings. However, there are so many children without shoes around the globe. Consider gathering shoes, both new and used, and send them to a charity that will distribute them to those in need throughout the world.