“Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for his bed;
Mary was that mother mild,
JESUS CHRIST her little child.”
Service of 9 Lessons and Carols is held in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge University each Christmas Eve. It is estimated the audience watching live around the world exceeds 30 million people! King’s is one of the most beautiful, and famous churches; likewise its choir. The service too, is revered as a Christmas tradition. It varies very little, year after year: the opening Carol is invariably “Once in Royal David’s City,” verse one of which is quoted above. It is a special, and spectacular celebration of the Incarnation, the birth of Jesus Christ. And it got me thinking.
Jesus Christ could have come from Heaven in royal majesty. His life on earth — I realize I am assuming you believe he did indeed have a life here, as recorded in the pages of the New Testament — his life could have well been lived out with great pomp and splendour, and we would rightly be filled with awe and wonder at it all. We would fall down acknowledging his terrible authority and might, for Scripture is clear: all heaven, all creation, all people and nations are upheld by the power of his presence.
But instead of this we are told — do read Luke Ch.1 if you have any doubt — that Christ was born as poor, and as lowly as anyone could imagine.
To never possess house, or wealth, or position. Most incredibly, to die a criminal’s death, thrice-denied by one terrified friend and abandoned by all others … Jesus, embracing all this, is a sign indeed, of something which surpasses all knowledge and understanding. It overthrows every category of what we call greatness, and power, and glory. And love.
St. Luke tells us Jesus “lay in a manger” as a sign. His birth is a heavenly sign to us of God’s willing and firm embrace of all the poverty and struggle and misery and sin of human life. All that makes us afraid, God’s Son takes unto himself and thus removes it from us.
“He came down to earth from heaven
Who is God and Lord of all,
And his shelter was a stable,
And his cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our SAVIOUR holy.”
We pray for you all, regularly, at Christ’s Church and hope 2012 brings us all much joy and peace in believing.
Guy Bellerby is Rector of Christ’s