For the last month, our oldest has been belting out Christmas carols. It is sweet even as the lyrics are often not entirely accurate. A few weeks ago, Jim busted out “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” which is one of his go-to standards this time of year. This isn’t an accident because I have been heavily dosing the holiday playlists with the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas for as long as he’s been alive. He started singing:
Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king
Peace on earth and mercy wild
I chuckled a little and corrected him. It’s “mercy mild” not “mercy wild.” And then I immediately wished that I had not done that. A few minutes later I told Jim that I actually liked his version better.
There is little about the Christmas story that one can consider mild. It’s the story of God becoming incarnate as a helpless and vulnerable baby. The way I see it, the story reads like a desperate, last-ditch gambit to save the world. The co-conspirator with God is an unwed teenage girl who willingly agrees to this harebrained scheme even though her pregnancy could have cost Mary her life one way or another. She, an uncertain fiancé, and a ragtag group of shepherds stand on one side as the vengeful puppet king of the world’s foremost superpower stands on the other.
It is a story of refugees and late night escapes over borders. It is a story where Mary sings of God, “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”