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Friday, January 2, 2015

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.

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 meek and lowly,
lived on earth our Savior holy.

Cecil Frances Alexander’s “Once in Royal David’s City”
(tune: Irby)
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

One of my favorite Christmas CDs opens with a single voice singing this hymn in a large cathedral. So many Christmas hymns are glorious, exultant, singing-with-the-angels kind of hymns, but this hymn is quiet, measured, meditative. In hearing it, we are invited once again to consider how Jesus was born in a lowly cattle shed. All he had was a manger to sleep in. The contrast between his reign in heaven and his arrival on earth couldn’t be starker. Jesus came down—so far down—to earth from heaven.

He chose to humble himself, to live among the poor, the meek, the lowly. Among us. There’s something about the grittiness of being born in a stable, of having only swaddling clothes to wear, that feels very, very real. Only a God who truly cares, who truly loves us, would seek to enter into the way we live so tangibly.

Much as I would like it to be otherwise, most of my life is lived on the everyday, trying-to-keep-it-all-together level, not on the singing-with-the-angels level. I long for the serene acceptance of the ordinary that this hymn conveys. And yet I am comforted, too, to know that God chose to live in our world, in our reality, as part of his plan to redeem us.

Lord God, thank you that the wonder of Christmas is not only your coming to earth, but your living on earth. Help me to remember to sing with the angels while living the everydayness of life. Amen.

Written by Lisa Stracks, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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