Last Sunday at the traditional services we sang what has become my favorite Christmas carol, “Once in Royal David’s City.”
Once in royal David’s city, stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby, in a manger for his bed;
Mary, loving mother mild, Jesus Christ, her little child.
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, the scorned, the lowly, lived on earth our Savior holy.
Jesus is our childhood’s pattern; day by day, like us he grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless, tears and smiles like us he knew;
And he feeleth for our sadness, and he shareth in our gladness.
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.
The carol is the traditional processional carol for the service of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge, which is broadcast all over the world on Christmas Eve. The first verse, sung by the beautiful, clear voice of a boy soprano, recalls that enduring image of mother and child, that image that is familiar all over the world to Christians and non-Christians alike. It is quite lovely.
Other voices join as the hymn builds, the second and third verses telling of the Christ who came down from heaven, Lord of all, but present in weakness, for the weak and broken. These verses speak to my heart.
And then the carol ends by raising our sights and aspirations to something that is far beyond us.
This is the message of Christmas. He came down…he lifts us up. We’ll continue exploring this general theme this Sunday, as we read the story of Mary and Joseph in the temple with the baby Jesus, and the response elicited from Simeon and Anna. (Luke 2:22-40)
Remember that Christmas is a 12-day season, beginning December 25 and ending January 6. So we’ll be singing carols and celebrating the birth, even if the world around us has decided that Christmas in now over. We know better.
See you Sunday at the Christmas place!