I don’t know about you, but when I hear “Silent Night” I always picture a nativity set on a mantle, showing a smiling Mary and Joseph looking down on a baby in swaddling clothes, a shepherd and some farm animals behind them, maybe an angel on the roof, and three well-dressed kings (who weren’t there, by the way—check your Bible) with their gifts. None of that is wrong (except the aforementioned wise men, who didn’t show up until well after the birth). But I think we often talk about Baby Jesus and forget that he was also the Lord Jesus. He didn’t become the Lord when He turned 30 and started his ministry, or at puberty when His parents found Him in the temple, being about His “Father’s business.” No, He was Lord from the moment of His birth. Before that even, from the moment the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary. Before that even…He was Lord before the creation of the world. He never ceased to be Lord. Rather, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, He took “the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:7, NIV)
That brings up the issue of Christ’s incarnation and of His dual nature. We have to remember that Christ was not 50% man and 50% God. He was 100% man and 100% God, human and divine. How? Beats me. I can’t explain it. But somehow, in some way, beyond what my mind can comprehend, Christ entered into our world in 100% human form without ceasing to also be 100% God.
A few years ago, I heard a Maundy Thursday sermon on the theme of “who’s in charge?” The preacher that night showed how throughout the events leading up to His crucifixion and even in His death, Jesus was in control. He surrendered his life; it wasn’t taken from Him. He gave up His spirit. He didn’t call the legion of angels to rescue Him. Pilate had no authority over Jesus had it not been given to him. Truly, Jesus was Lord at His death.
Similarly, He was Lord at His birth. Read through the Old Testament prophecies about Christ. Read through the accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Think through the events that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Think about the angels sent to tell the shepherds or the star that appeared to the magi directing them to the Christ. Add in the purpose of it all…Jesus didn’t come to be a cute little baby to inspire nativity scenes. He came to die for the sins of the world. Ponder that as you read the prophecies and the Gospels and think through the Christmas story. See how this plan, laid out before the creation of the world, unraveled and was fulfilled perfectly along every step of the way.
Do so, and I think you’ll find the power in those few words at the end of a familiar carol.
Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.