Many religious Christmas carols contain biblical truths and edifying thoughts about the First Advent of Jesus. “Joy to the World” was actually written in praise of His Second Advent, which has not yet occurred, but it’s great to sing about Christ’s coming to earth whether as Savior or King.
Some carols take broad literary license such as “Silent Night” with angels playing golden harps and radiant beams shining from Christ’s face, or “Away in a Manger” where Jesus is a baby who does not cry.
Others contain wording that is contradicted by the biblical account. For example, “Go Tell It on the Mountain” says Jesus was born in a manger, not laid in a manger. “As With Gladness men of Old” has the wise men visiting Jesus in His manger bed. Actually by the time the magi arrived, Jesus and his parents were in a house (Matthew 2:11). Nativities, Christmas card pictures, and “The Bible” miniseries notwithstanding, wise men did not visit Jesus lying in a manger.
And whether the manger was in a stable, cave, barn, courtyard, or field, the Bible doesn’t say. Nor does it say Mary was in labor when she arrived in Bethlehem. It says she was “great with child” and that while they were in Bethlehem the days of her pregnancy were accomplished, and she had the baby (Luke 2:6-7).
Scripture is also silent about donkeys, inn keepers, little drummer boys, and a “cold wintry night” ("Lo How A Rose”). Actually Jesus was probably born in the Spring, around lambing time, because that is when shepherds would have been spending nights in the fields with their flocks. Some studies suggest that Jesus was likely born near the temple flocks, where shepherds would wrap newborn lambs in swaddling cloths to keep them unblemished for sacrifice.
God is big on symbolism. His newborn Son would be the unblemished sacrifice for us. Wrapped in swaddling cloths, the “Lamb of God” came to takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Read more about Jesus’ birthplace here.
Finally, the Bible doesn’t say how many kings traveled to Israel, but “We Three Kings of Orient Are” establishes a set number and goes on to say they followed “yonder star” to find Jesus. Did they? Read next week’s post concerning that misconception.
Despite some unfortunate wording, Christmas carols honor Jesus and exhort us to worship and submit to Him. May you enjoy that experience this holiday season.
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