Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head,
The stars in the sky look down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.
Who knew simple Christmas carols could raise important questions for anyone who wants to follow Jesus? The song celebrates the Incarnation, literally, the enfleshment of Jesus, when God Himself became man. It is a powerful song because any parent remembers well the beauty and mystery of their child asleep in the crib. We can relate to sleeping babies. But then . . .
The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes
The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes . . .
Right here--at the words, “no crying he makes” the song begins to depart from our personal experience. Most mothers would begin to worry about a baby who never cries. A baby who never cries? What kind of baby was this Jesus? Did he ever cry? Was he a real baby--who did all the things babies do--or was he a miracle baby?
This baby Jesus, God Incarnate: how did he receive the Magi when they came to worship? Did the infant invite them in and gesture for them to sit? Did the new-born child king say, “Please, come in. You must be exhausted from your journey.” Did he thank them for their thoughtful gifts? Or was he simply a baby, for the most part unaware of what was going on? Did his mother tell him years later of those strange visitors?
Fast-forward just a few years and imagine Jesus as a boy learning the family business at his father’s side: how did the sinless Son of God (perhaps, say, six years old) drive a nail into a board for the very first time? Did he hold the hammer correctly? Did he drive the nail straight and true? Or, like all children, did he gain his skill through experience? When the Perfect Human Being first held a saw and cut a piece of wood, did he cut the board correctly? And if he did not, what does this say of his divinity?
Behind such imaginations hide questions for anyone who would become like their Master. These questions comprise meditations worthy of the Christmas week:
- Was Jesus a real human being?
- If Jesus is our example in both behavior and ministry, how did he become the man he was?
- If Jesus modeled ministry for us by healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead, by what power did he do these things?
Questions like theses can help us celebrate the wonder of the Incarnation. More important, they can help us discover the life of a disciple and who we are as followers of Jesus.