The holiday season is now in full swing and with it comes sweet Christmas carols and hymns of the Christ-child. Cherished lines from our favorite songs will be hummed in grocery store lines, sung at family gatherings, and played hundreds of times over the air waves during the next few weeks.
O Holy night. Beautiful star of Bethlehem. Away in a manger. Infant holy, infant lowly…
With all the sentimentality and joyful expressions of these wondrous tunes, I wonder how often, if ever, we stop to think about the words we’re singing and how lowly that Holy Night really was.
A lonely couple in the throes of labor frantically searching the streets for a place to stay, not knowing what to expect or what was to come.
A baby born on the dirty floor of a barn, the air filled with the stench of animals and manure.
No assistance of a midwife or another woman to help the young girl through the grueling agony of childbirth; no man to aid Joseph in the anxiousness of knowing he was about to parent the son of the Most High God.
Mary baring her vulnerable, teenage body to the older man who she, up until that night, had never before been intimate with. Besides feeling fearful and overwhelmed, both Mary and Joseph must have felt the awkwardness.
After the labor, there was no sink to clean up the blood or afterbirth. No soft pillow could be found for Mary to rest her exhausted head as she lay on the hard floor most likely surrounded with scratchy, uncomfortable straw.
There was no plush baby blanket to wrap around her child, only ripped strips of worn-out cloth. The only visitors were not parents, close friends or extended relatives, but complete strangers – shepherds bringing along more animals and stench. No flowers, no cards, and no gifts. It’s good to remember that the wise men didn’t show up until a year or two later to Joseph and Mary’s modest Bethlehem home. When we add those beautifully adorned kings and their 3 gifts to our nativity sets and Christmas cards, we do so to make the scene more palatable and glamorous, but there was nothing glamorous about that night. This picture of the most holy of nights is not a pretty one.
The images we conjure up of that Silent Night are of a haloed couple, all smiles, gazing lovingly at their cute little baby boy surrounded by clean, adorable animals who seem to be smiling as well. Dimple-faced cherubs fly around the manger while a little drummer boy is playing a tune, and the Bethlehem Star is shining through the crack in the roof filling it with an unnatural incandescent glow. The actual setting in which our Savior appeared was far from this tree-ornament nativity scene. It was beyond humble and lowly, yet we do get a glimpse of loveliness here. Amid the moo’s and baaa’s, tears and sweat, confusion and pain, we behold the beauty of the extended love of the Father toward us in sending His son on that difficult and unattractive night. We witness a holy perfection in the tiny Messiah and see the beauty of Peace and Goodwill that he brought to all humanity.
“Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given…and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Is. 9:6
This year I will still be singing along but with a different and more grateful point of view. Dwelling on its reality brings a new meaning of humility to O Holy Night…
“Oh holy night The stars are brightly shining It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth Long lay the world in sin and error pining Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees Oh hear the angel voices Oh night divine Oh night when Christ was born Oh night divine Oh night divine
Truly He taught us to love one another His law is love and His gospel is peace Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother And in His name all oppression shall cease Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we Let all within us praise His holy name
Fall on your knees Oh hear the angel voices Oh night divine Oh night when Christ was born Oh night divine Oh night divine”
You can read more of Sonia’s gift of penning grace at email@example.com.
Merry Christmas, April Dawn White