Please don’t hate me for this post. I realize, for some people, dissing Christmas carols is right up there with dissing the Bible and dissing your mother’s grave.
But the fact is, there are some Christmas carols I don’t like. Now, before you call me a grinch and say my heart is two sizes too small, and I need a hug and a big glass of egg nog (which is disgusting), there are SOME Christmas carols I really like. I love “Joy to the World,” even though it’s actually about the return of Christ. I love “O Come All Ye Faithful.” I love “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” So I’m not all Scrooge.
But there are a lot of Christmas carols that rub me the wrong way. Take the song “Silent Night,” for example. The first verse says:
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
It all sounds so nice and peaceful. Baby Jesus being held by his adoring mother, sleeping in heavenly peace. There’s nothing particularly wrong with these lyrics. But they all feel so … sanitized. And I don’t think the birth of Jesus was nice and sanitized. It was humiliating.
As every mom knows, having babies is a messy, bloody, excruciating business. There are screams of agony when the contractions get fast and furious. When the baby comes out, it is covered in mucus and blood. In our modern hospitals, everything is quickly cleaned up and the baby is placed on a warming table. Jesus wasn’t afforded those luxuries.
The stable was probably cold. The bitter smell of animal manure and musk was probably overpowering. Did Mary lay on straw, or was she just on the cold, hard ground? How did they clean everything up? How did they clean Jesus off? Was Mary shivering with cold or pain?
When Jesus became a man, it was infinite humiliation. He was not born in a palace, like we would expect. He was born in a stable. A dirty, filthy, stable. There were no attendants waiting on Mary. Just Joseph, a first-time dad who had never even slept with Mary, let alone taken Lamaze classes. The son of God, Christ by highest heaven adored, made his entrance in dirty obscurity. I bet even the angels were shocked by that turn of events.
And the moment Jesus was born, the death clock started ticking. The shadow of the cross hung over the stable.
So it’s not that I don’t like Christmas carols. I do. It’s just that sometimes I think the Christmas carols paint everything in a nice, clean, Thomas Kinkade-ish way. Sometimes they varnish over the utter humiliation of the Son of God.
Jesus was Lord at birth. The angels did adore him. But Jesus was born in humiliation. The King of Kings made himself nothing. As Philippians 2:5-8 says:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
When we listen to Christmas carols this year, let’s enjoy them, but let’s also remember things weren’t pretty when Jesus was born.