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.
One of the great traditions associate with the service of Lessons and Carols is that it begins with this gentle hymn. In fact, the voice of a child is meant to sing the first verse as the choirs process in.
There is something remarkably profound about the retelling of the Christmas story beginning with the voice of a child. It draws us back to Isaiah’s words, and a little child shall lead them. The story was about a child – and it is children who often lead us back into seeing it anew.
We know the story. We tell it every year. It has become so comfortable that many of us have lost touch with it’s true nature.
The story is not gentle at all. It is shocking. The entire circumstances surrounding the Christ-child’s birth display from the very beginning how counter-cultural God really is. God lifts up the lowly and downtrodden and topples the mighty from their thrones. The story is of the world being turned upside down – all because of a child.
So as we begin the season of Advent, here is a key question: where are the children’s voices in our midst? What voices have we forgotten to hear? How is God speaking to us again through the “little ones” in our world – calling us out of our nostalgic reverie and into concrete actions of love?
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.