[Note: I posted the bulk of this one on a long-since-defunct blog I did a number of years ago. It’s another consideration of a favorite Christmas carol.]
The “Christ Child Lullaby” is a beautiful, lilting Christmas carol sung from the perspective of the Blessed Mother. You can hear a snippet from the album at Amazon (an album anyone who appreciates traditional Irish music must have).
My love, my pride, my treasure, oh,
My wonder new and pleasure, oh,
My son, my beauty, ever You,
Who am I to bear You here?
The cause of talk and tale am I,
The cause of greatest fame am I
The cause of proudest care on high,
To have for mine, the King of all.
And though you are the King of all,
They sent You to a manger stall,
Where at Your feet they all shall fall,
And glorify my child, the King.
There shone a star above three kings
To guide them to the King of kings.
They held You in their humble arms,
And knelt before You until dawn.
They gave you myrrh and gave You gold,
Frankincense and gifts untold.
They traveled far these gifts to bring,
And glorify their newborn King.
A new mother, but not just any mother, Mary Immaculate, looking at her new Son, singing softly, deeply, “My love, my pride, my treasure, my wonder new and pleasure, my SON, my beauty!… who am I to bear you here?”
Who is she, she asks? Who are we if she is asking such a question!? She, whom God the Father chose to be the mother of his Incarnation! She, who alone among creation was chosen to be the Ark of the New Covenant! She, who alone was preserved from the stain of Original Sin and through whose Fiat the Word was made flesh! Who is she to bear Him there? Who are we to presume to draw near to His mysteries? Who are we to ponder His immensity? Who are we to approach Him in any way? She would have asked the question out of the purest of humility: we must ask the question out of our wretchedness.
“The cause of talk and tale am I.” In her days of carrying the incarnated Son of God she was much looked at with sideways glances, being clearly pregnant earlier than her marriage would “allow.” “The cause of greatest fame am I.” She was the subject of prophecies of Isaiah, and the scorn of her neighbors. She was the pinnacle of creation, the crown jewel of God’s work in nature, and lived a life of hardscrabble subsistence on the periphery of the Roman Empire. Was forced, late in her pregnancy, to travel to a distant town, was forced to take refuge in a stable as her hour was imminent. Gave birth in the meanest of conditions to He whom she knew to be God’s Son. Asses and sheep to keep them company. Yet she did not complain. She recognized instead that His majesty is such that not all the splendor of all the kings on earth could render sufficient honor to Him… In this mean abode, all would still come to pay their homage because His presence made that stable the most glorious place on earth. “The cause of proudest care on high, to have for mine the King of all.”
“And though you are the king of all, they sent you to a manger stall.” A manger stall. Fitting, really: a feed bin is the first resting place for He who shall be the true bread from heaven. The king of all is born in a manger stall, utterly insignificant in the eyes of world, probably expected not to live for a week or two based on infant mortality rates of the time. Yet, this humble abode is the only home he needs. He holds court there in the stable, his first attendants his humble parents and the brute animals. Then local shepherds, prompted by the heavenly choirs, come to see “what child is this whom angels sing.” And then, to the astonishment of all present, three kings appear.
A star shone the way for the three kings. They recognized the signs of the times. They had faith that their calculations were correct and they set out to behold their King. “To guide them to the King of kings.” They arrived at the stable arrayed in their pomp and splendor. They entered among the sheep, goats, donkeys, oxen, and shepherds, and they knelt in the muck and paid homage to Him. They dared to hold His person in their arms. Ponder that: they held God incarnate in their arms. God became an infant–a vulnerable, dependent infant, borrowing a stable as a home and a manger as a bed. These three kings saw fit to seek him out in this mean abode and pay him homage. They humbled themselves to such a degree on the faith that they had found the King of kings. They held him, then knelt in stupefied awe by his crib until dawn, pondering what sort of sign this was that the king whom their prophecies led them to seek out was a baby of such meager means and family.
But nevertheless, they produced their gifts: gold for His royal lineage, frankincense for His godhead and the worship due Him, myrrh to presage His ultimate death and burial. We do not know what else they may have given, their “gifts untold,” or what became of those gifts. But these gifts may well have been the most expensive items Mary and Joseph had ever seen, and almost certainly the most precious they had ever owned.
This is what we celebrate on Saturday: the entry into the world of the Word made flesh. The birth of Him to whom all owe all, and apart from whom all is nothing.
God Almighty, the eternal Being, out of acute love for His creation, took on our lowly form, submitted to a frail body, and lived among us. Not content to be a God apart, He condescended to be one of us so that we might have hope!
May the HOPE of this season give you new inspiration to forge on in the brave direction of Truth. May the Ultimate Reality of what happened on the plains of Bethlehem more than two millennia ago this Saturday fill your mind and your spirit with the ineffable sweetness that hope brings.
Merry Christmas, one and all!