Tuesday 5th January – See in Yonder Manger Low
Originally a much longer hymn the first verse has alternate opening lines. The last verse, deemed too Catholic for Protestant hymnals runs: Virgin Mother, Mary blest, By the joys that fill thy breast, Pray for us, that we may prove, Worthy of the Saviour’s love.
Colossians 1: 15-20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
See in Yonder Manger Low
Edward Caswall (1814-1878)
See in yonder manger low,
Born for us on earth below,
See–the gentle Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.
Hail the ever blessed morn;
Hail redemption’s happy dawn;
Sing through all Jerusalem:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
2 Lo, within a stable lies
He who built the starry skies,
He who, throned in height sublime,
Sits amid the cherubim.
3 Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this.
4 Teach, oh, teach us, holy Child,
By Thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee
In Thy sweet humility.
By the eleventh day of Christmas we have known a lot of sugar. We may have over-indulged on puddings, cake, marzipan and icing. In our worship, too, we may have been tempted to indulge the sweetness over the meat (or plant-based protein) of the Christmas story. Our carol today tries to bring some balance to our diet, a little like the cheese served with Yorkshire Christmas cake.
Perhaps we have been reflecting on the vulnerability of Jesus, born as a human baby to young parents. We might be imagining ourselves into the role of father, midwife, shepherd, cousin and counting fingers and toes on the Christ-child. This is the baby Jesus who enchanted us through nativity plays and Christmas stories so many times before. We need him, and look forward to retelling this part of his story, which helps us remember that Jesus was fully human, born as one of us, a person in history.
“See in Yonder Manger Low” invites us to see and love Jesus, this little fragile Lamb. The capital letter of Lamb as a symbol opens up another way to see him, familiar from the gospel of John and the book of Revelation. The child in the manger we adore is also the one in the throne room of God, adored by the angels, and the faithful witnesses of heaven. The one through whom all things were made. The eternal judge. Our saviour who reconciles broken humanity to the One in whose image we are made.
And so, between the tender words of a folk carol, breaks in an anthem worthy of the heavenly host. Weighty tones, rich and resonant which invite us to open our hearts again, and not just to the infant Jesus but to Christ the Creator and Ruler of all.
Christ, let us know your majesty.
As we imagine the throne room of heaven –
so awesome it might make us weep at its beauty –
may we glimpse the enormity of what you have done in bringing heaven to earth,
divine to human, the unimaginable to everyday.
We whisper another holy name – Emmanuel – and listen for the chorus in heaven who also know and celebrate that God is with us.