Saturday 19th December – Once in Royal David’s City
St Luke 2: 1 – 7
Many contemporary Christians find the lines in today’s carol about Christ leading his children on to heaven rather difficult, yet when this carol was written infant mortality was extremely high and the bereaved would find comfort in the notion that their children were with the Lord in Heaven.
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Once in Royal David’s City Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895)
Once in royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed, where a mother laid her baby in a manger for his bed: Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ, her little child.
2 He came down to earth from heaven who is God and Lord of all, and his shelter was a stable, and his cradle was a stall: with the poor, and mean, and lowly, lived on earth our Saviour holy.
3 And thro’ all his wondrous childhood he would honor and obey, love and watch the lowly maiden in whose gentle arms he lay: Christian children all must be mild, obedient, good as he.
4 And our eyes at last shall see him, thro’ his own redeeming love; for that child so dear and gentle is our Lord in heav’n above: and he leads his children on to the place where he is gone.
5 Not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by, we shall see him, but in heaven, set at God’s right hand on high; when like stars his children crowned all in white shall wait around.
The passage starts with a decree from the ruler. We are now used to various decrees from our leaders as they deal with an unprecedented situation. We all know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it was a long 90-mile journey from Nazareth and must have been difficult for Mary at her stage of pregnancy. Bethlehem was David’s city and it reminds us of many scriptures including this promise in Psalm 89 “I have sworn to David my servant, ‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations’.” During this current time when we are learning to live with a new-normal it is good to remember that Jesus is with us through these strange times. We know that Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. We need to be sure that we have room for Jesus in our lives. Joseph probably walked to Bethlehem while Mary rode the donkey. We are Walking the Way – Living the life of Jesus today and we can celebrate having Jesus in our lives today and every day.
The words of the carol are familiar and meaningful. The second verse reminds us where Jesus came from and why he came. There has been a lot written this year about the possibility of “saving Christmas” but that is the wrong way round. Jesus came at Christmas to save us, or as the hymn says, “lived on earth our Saviour holy”. As we celebrate Christmas, we remember the reason that Jesus came, he came to lead us to be with Him and His Father is heaven. We look forward to Christmas and the New Year and the one certainty that we have is that Jesus will still be with us. Verse 4 of the hymn reminds us that one day we will join Him and see him is heaven.
Almighty God, We ask that you help us feel the presence of Jesus with us as we approach Christmas. Show us that He is here and remind us that He will never leave us. Help us to share the good news of Christmas with people who do not yet understand what it really means. In Jesus name we pray Amen