Once again we find ourselves preparing for Christmas. Lights are going up on the houses, presents are being wrapped, and a general feeling of anticipation is in the air. What are you expecting this Christmas?
On that very first Christmas, Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph. Mary, being a first-time mom, probably only vaguely knew what to expect as she delivered and began to care for her child. Joseph, whom tradition thinks was an older man, possibly a widower, may have had more experience being a father. But as all parents know, children come with surprises unique to the child. And Jesus was no exception. His birth was heralded by angels and foretold by the prophets. Shepherds and Wise Men came to greet him and bring him gifts. This was no ordinary baby. Except, he was. He cried, he ate, he slept, and he gazed fondly at his parents as all newborn babes do.
I wonder what was in Mary and Joseph’s hearts that first Christmas. I imagine they were filled with anticipation. I would think that Mary and Joseph’s expectation had both a joyful and a serious side. As Jesus himself says much later in his life, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48). The life Mary and Joseph embarked upon with their newborn son will be filled with both challenges and blessings. If I had to choose a Christmas carol that Mary and Joseph would have sung or appreciated, I think I would choose “What Child is This?”
“What Child is this who laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?”
What child is this? We know so much more about the child, Jesus, than his parents did that first night together. We know what he taught his disciples, the life he led, the death he suffered and the glory he experienced in the resurrection. When we see the baby in the manger, we see Jesus through the lens of the man he would become.
One year a friend of mine encouraged me to join her in “praying the Christmas carols” during the seasons of Advent and Christmas. She said, “pay attention to the words – they have a lot to say.” And I did. In fact, I still do. A new Advent devotional available for your use this year is “Hark the Glad Sound,” which uses Christmas carols to bring our hearts closer to God during this season. I invite you to use that booklet to pray the carols.
Another verse of “What Child is This?” reads:
“This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing. Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary.”
With prayers for a blessed Advent and Christmas as we sing our praises to Jesus who is both the Son of God and the Son of Mary,