God sent His only begotten Son into the world by way of a manger–a sort of tub that farm animals ate out of. But if God had been a man, if God had been like us, He would have done it differently.
Instead of bothering with shepherds, He would have had His angels appear on the White House lawn or Rockefeller Center. It would’ve been quite a show.
Instead of a manger, He would have provided a sprawling, towering palace sheathed in gold, with really nice marble statues, guards in fancy uniforms, an army of servants, trumpets blowing… the works.
Instead of a baby, He would have sent the Son to earth in the form of a dazzlingly handsome man, eight feet tall, with muscles on top of his muscles, diamond tie-tacks galore, way smarter than anybody else, with all the good intentions in the world–
And there would have been no Cross, no rejection by the authorities–
And none of it would have worked worth a damn, because Christ would have become just another celebrity among celebrities, a leader who scared half of the people to death and made himself just plain odious to the other half; who would have forced good things on us until we were sick of them; a Nero without the fiddle…
No, it wouldn’t have worked at all.
God, praise God, knew better than we will ever know. That’s why He sent us a baby in a manger.
I listened again to The Holly and the Ivy, and this time it really got to me. It brought tears to my eyes.
I don’t want you to think I’m some kind of weeping willie, although it has always been my way not to withhold tears from those to whom tears are due. If you can’t be stirred by the beauty of holiness in Jesus Christ… well, I don’t know.
Tears of joy are a small tribute to pay to Christmas–the day we have chosen, by custom, to celebrate the Incarnation, the word made flesh, our salvation. Those are very large gifts. And along with them, we receive love, family, sweet memories, and hope.
This is an evil age we’re living in, and we need to know that our God has not forgotten us. That’s what the carol was telling me. It took a few hours to sink in.
God is nigh. That is the lesson. He is never farther than a prayer away, and sometimes even closer than that.
My aunt, the last of my family in her generation, is now in a safe place which has already done her lots of good. And just in time for Christmas, too. This was a gift, and I am thankful for it. Not the first gift I have ever received from my God, and surely not the last. So I give thanks for Christmas, for Jesus Christ coming down from heaven and into the world, where I am. And for all the other gifts that go with it.
Let’s start getting into the mood for Christmas–not to make it an idol, certainly not as some kind of generic “happy holiday” whose name we must not mention: but as our glorious proclamation of the incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ as an historical fact–a thing that really happened.
I love this hymn. Our junior high school band used to do a fine rendition of it. Like everyone else in my home room, I was drafted into the school choir willy-nilly–just as my voice was changing, too–but I dearly loved to listen to the band practice this melody.