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Sing we now of Christmas?


The Life Less Traveled


December 05, 2012
Just because you heard it in a Christmas song doesn't necessarily mean it's true. Take "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," for instance. He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness' sake? Seriously? When was the last time Santa withheld presents for being bad? I've known kids who practically burned the house to the ground and still found the latest video game system sitting under their tree on Christmas morning. Clearly, this song needs updating.

Or how about "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas?" It says, "From now on our troubles will be miles away." Really? Just because it's Christmas I won't have trouble? This songwriter is obviously delusional.

And c'mon, nobody is buying that Grandma got ran over by a reindeer. What a convenient story that is. Where exactly was Grandpa at the time of the incident? Did Grandma have any enemies? Who's the beneficiary of her life insurance policy? We've all seen enough "CSI" to know this case warrants further investigation.

But of all these erroneous Christmas songs, none is more misleading than "Away in a Manger." It paints an idyllic picture of the baby Jesus asleep in the Bethlehem stable. It's a sweet song. I'll give you that. In fact, I can go 95 percent of the way with it. There's just one part that flies in the face of all I know about parenthood:

The cattle are lowing,

The poor baby wakes,

But little Lord Jesus,

No crying He makes.

Any parents out there with me on this? I'm no expert on babies, but I am a dad of two daughters, two daughters who have taught me the priceless value of a good night's sleep. I can't even begin to describe the elaborate lengths my wife and I have gone through to keep from waking my girls once they are down for the night. I can tell you, though, if a mooing cow had woken either of them from a nap, the first thing they would have done is scream their heads off.

Most normal babies would have done the same thing. So, you can see why I have a problem with the line "no crying he makes." If Jesus was anything, He was normal. Yes, He was God in the flesh, but that flesh was real with no unfair advantages.

The Bible says that Jesus shared in our humanity and was "fully human in every way." He did cry. In fact, the Bible says as an adult He wept over the death of a friend and over His people who turned their backs on Him.

Jesus knew firsthand the pain of a broken heart. Believe me, Jesus knew tears. Why? Because He wasn't just like us. He became one of us, and that's just part of being a member of the human race.

I don't know about you, but this brings me great comfort, to know that when it comes to my worst day, Jesus has already been there, done that. That's the dirty reality of Christmas that doesn't fit into a pretty holiday song, that God gets it, that He gets how hard it can be to be you.

But not only does He get it, He actually loved us enough to do something about it. For a night perhaps, Jesus lived away in a manger, but that manger led to a cross and that cross to an empty tomb, and there our tears of pain can become tears of joy. And that is truly worth singing about at Christmas or any time of year.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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