That Woe is Me

For about four years up until this last summer I’ve gotten to be a part of a little homeschooled choir; and a couple of years ago we all had decided to perform “Coventry Carol” for the upcoming Christmas concert. Only a handful of us had actually heard the song; it was hauntingly beautiful, beautifully sorrowful, and eye-opening in a sorrowful kind of way.
The original Coventry Carol was an a capella written for a pageant in the 1600’s, and was sung by three mothers carrying three little children onstage. The words go like this:
Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,

Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Lullay, thou little tiny Child,

Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,

For to preserve this day

This poor youngling for whom we do sing

Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,

Charged he hath this day

His men of might, in his own sight,

All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!

And ever mourn and sigh,

For thy parting neither say nor sing,

Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Coventry Carol was meant to be a lullaby, the last lullaby, sung for the mothers of Bethlehem two thousand years ago. It was written from this verse in Matthew;

“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and it’s vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.”  (Matthew 2:16)

And it echoes the following passage:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
Weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve read over these words without paying close attention, but ever since singing Coventry Carol with my choir I can’t help but wonder at the sadness I couldn’t possibly understand.

Because I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child. I cannot imagine what it means to live a life knowing you were given such a gift as a baby, had watched him grow and raised him as best as you could and have him ripped from your arms knowing you would never see him again.

And yet, I cannot possibly imagine either, what it would be like to find out that someday, you would see him again. For the night those children died at the hands of soldiers, the one child that lived was the only Way that each of those mothers could someday again hold their children in their arms, and He would be their comfort and hope until that day.

While Coventry Carol’s melancholy tune seemed out of place alongside “Joy to the World” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, if you think long and hard enough about it you’ll find where it belongs. It’s a prelude. A prelude to every song happily sung during the season of Christmas. Because only until we understand why joy was brought to the world and why the angels sang will we understand the true joy of Christmas.

~Abbey Drury

From the Lips of Children

Matthew 21:16

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” [the chief priests and teachers of the law] asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”

Children have a gift of getting to the heart of the matter.   The children in the temple during Holy Week continued to shout and praise Jesus’ name, shouting “Hosanna!”  just as they had done on the road to Jerusalem on Sunday.  For them, the triumph was not over.  The children continued to celebrate when the adults around them were losing momentum in their faith.

The grumbling of the chief priests and teachers of the law about the noisy children is met with a response from Jesus that is a reminder of what they know all too well themselves from reading the Psalms–praise from the children is actually prescribed by God and is therefore made holy.

I’m reminded of this every Sunday when I play piano for the Sunday School singing time for the children in our small church.  For over twenty years now I’ve watched a generation of Wiser Lake Chapel children, including my own three, grow up in that church basement, singing the same praise and worship songs from the time they sit as toddlers on a bigger sibling’s lap, to the point when they “graduate” to the high school class.  Some of those children have now become the Sunday School teachers, with their own children sitting in the very chairs they sat in such a short time ago.  There is nothing more invigorating than hearing children singing energetically with joy, knowing that God Himself has ordained their voices should be lifted up in praise.

So on this sad and lonely week that marches inexorably to Friday, to Golgotha, to suffering and death, the unwelcome shouts and songs of the children must have been soothing balm to Jesus’ soul.  The children knew His heart when the adults around Him were too blind to see and too deaf to hear.

~E Gibson

Lead Those With Young

And gently lead those that are with young.
Isaiah 40:11

Parents of young children deserve special compassion from the rest of us.  I remember what it was like to juggle two crying children under the age of three at a grocery store.   One particularly stressful afternoon, I left a full cart in the middle of an aisle, picked up both overly tired screaming boys in my arms and headed to the car, too exasperated and embarrassed to continue shopping.   I was badly in need of a dose of gentleness that day.  When I see a mom in that predicament at the grocery store now, I offer whatever help she may need at the moment, because I remember what it was like.   It is my responsibility to help those who are responsible for children.

Instead of it taking a village to raise a child, it is my experience that a church family is a safer bet.  As we hunted for a church home with our two young boys, it was important to see which church made them feel just as welcome as their parents.  Some worship services discouraged the inclusion of young children in the sanctuary, shuttling them to nursery or classes instead.  I loved what I saw at Wiser Lake Chapel, the little church we eventually joined:  young children were part of the regular worship, learning to sit quietly, sometimes with surrogate grandparents equipped with colored pencils and paper to draw pictures, or to start taking sermon notes to post on the Chapel refrigerator for all to see.  There was a collaborative sense of devotion to the nurturing of each child in the church, through support of their parents, even if that meant being tolerant of the occasional rowdy toddler.

Now that our children are grown, we can be part of the lives of the dozens of younger children who are coming behind them.  I love knowing these children trust me enough to come to my arms when they need comforting, and will sit with me during worship, or draw me a special picture.   I enjoy playing piano for their Sunday School singing time, hearing them sing the same songs my children learned twenty years ago and that I learned over fifty years ago.  We value time we spend with the high schoolers in Sunday School, talking about the often deep and confusing feelings that accompany discovering one’s spiritual beliefs, as well as hosting the youth group in our home.

So in gratitude to the shepherds who lead those who raise children,  the continuity of your gentle nurture is deeply appreciated.