The wonderful folks at Chick-fil-a have redefined how we view cows. Now we see them skydiving into stadiums and putting up billboards all over the country begging us to eat more chicken. Another characteristic of cows (and many people who respond angrily to my books) is horrible spelling. Coincidence?
Today on the morning walk with dog friend Hannah a contemporary version of Away in a Manger popped up on the iPod from Cece Williams. During verse three my enquiring mind kicked in. You likely know verse three of the song.
The cattle are lowing
The Baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes
As I listened an important series of difficult and probing inquiries popped into my head. What noise, exactly, were the cattle making when they started lowing? Was this normal cow conversation? Did lowing just sound better than mooing in the lyric or is lowing a more spiritual cow sound? And then the most important question came to mind...what is wrong with me?
I can't answer the last question but I can help with the others. Lowing is defined
So little baby Jesus was awakened by the characteristic sound uttered by a cow. The next part of the lyric is disturbing to those of us who are parents. If any of the babies who grew up in our household were awakened by cattle lowing they would "be squalling (the characteristic sound uttered by a ticked off baby; a scream)." During the course of my intrepid investigating I discovered that this verse was not original to the song. It was added for a children's program in the early 1900's by a Methodist minister named John T. McFarland. While verse three is not a part of the original Christmas carol canon it does create an image of Jesus that we need to rethink.
I remember as a child singing "Away in a Manger" and picturing the
baby Jesus with this beatific smile on his face and a little halo
hovering over his head. In my imagination the animals were swaying and
singing like the
This Christmas why not take a little time to think about the
implications of the incarnation. That nice little theological word is
used to denote when the second person of the Trinity assumed human form
in the person of Jesus Christ and became both fully God and fully man.
C.S. Lewis called the incarnation "the Grand Miracle." He wrote: "The
central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation.... Every
other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from
this.... It was the central event in the history of the Earth--the very
thing that the whole story has been about" (
By a miracle that passes human comprehension, the Creator entered his creation, the Eternal entered time, God became human--in order to die and rise again for the salvation of all people. "He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still ... (to) the womb ... down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him" (Miracles, C.S. Lewis).
Take a moment to meditate on the mystery of that. Fully God and fully man. I am sure the little Lord Jesus would have had the normal response to being awakened by any cow noise...lowing or other. His swaddling clothes had to be changed just like any baby. Chuck Swindoll described Him as diety in diapers.
How does that affect me this Christmas? Because God became flesh He understands the frailties of our flesh. When I suffer Jesus understands. He has been there. When I am lonely or feeling betrayed He understands. When I am joyful and laughing He understands. By becoming like me Jesus can empathize with me. He gets it.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. I John 2
Jesus became our advocate and our path to salvation when He arrived
on earth. The miracle in the manger was not Jesus ignoring stupid cows.
The miracle was God becoming flesh. And that is worth lowing or crowing about.