Countdown to Christmas: Day 10. "Away in a Manger"
The cattle are lowing the poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus look down from the sky
And stay by my side 'til morning is nigh
Here’s a standard Christmas lullaby. It’s gentle and safe… and wrong. To be fair, there’s only one line I take issue with: “little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.” If Christmas is the celebration of a Jesus that is both fully divine and fully human, then it requires a crying baby.
Have you ever seen Christmas art with a baby wailing in a manger?
Or a depiction of an adult Jesus laughing in stained glass?
I can’t say I’ve discovered that yet either.
Yet, weeping and joy are expressions of the full range of human emotion. If Jesus is fully human, we should expect both.
Of course, a non-crying baby paints an idyllic and serene picture. But it’s not realistic. When Kelly was pregnant with our firstborn, I joined her for a visit to her OB’s office. As we waited to see the doctor, I flipped through a parenting magazine and found an article written by a young father to expecting dads. He said, “Anyone who tells you having a newborn is easy doesn’t correctly recall the first six weeks.” A newborn is a gift of joy, accompanied by sleepless nights, parental anxiety and lots of crying. It’s the only way babies can express feelings of hunger and discomfort.
The little Lord Jesus cries. The adult Jesus cries too. He weeps when a family friend dies. He expresses disappointment when the people he came to rescue reject him. He cries out in anguish when he suffered for our redemption. The prophet Isaiah describes him as “a man of suffering, familiar with pain.” The only person who can empathize with those who suffer, is one who has tasted suffering.
This is good news at Christmas: the Christ who knows what it is to hurt identifies with us in our hurts. The hungry baby understands our soul aches. The rejected Messiah meets us in our loneliness. Sure, a crying Christ-child shatters the myth of a transcendent baby, but it gives us a relatable Redeemer, a sympathetic Savior.
Cry on, little Jesus. Cry on. Your tears tell us we’re not alone.